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M. li 





BOOK I. continued. 





An erroneous Conscience denned 1 


An erroneous Conscience binds us to Obedience, but not so as a right 
Conscience does 5 

An erring Conscience is a Cause of Sin 16 


It is a greater Sin to do a good Action against our Conscience, than to 
do an evil Action in Obedience to it 18 


It is not lawful to delight in an evil Action, after the Discovery of our 
Error . . 20 



Conscience is to be obeyed even against the Commandment of our 
Superiors 22 


An abused Conscience ought to be reformed by the Will, and con- 
trary Reason 26 


The Error of a Conscience is not always to be opened to the erring 
Person 28 



A probable Conscience denned 3) 

A probable Conscience may be made certain 33 

Of two Opinions equally probable, one may be safer 71 

An Opinion speculatively probable, is not always practically the same. . 72 

The greater Probability destroys the less 75 


When two Opinions seem equally probable, the last Determination is 
to be made by collateral Inducements 80 


It is not lawful to change our practical Sentence, while the same 
Probability remains 84 

RULE vm. 

A Probability is not to be followed, except in great Necessity 87 

Multitude of Authors is not ever the most probable Inducement 90 


In following the Authority of Men, the Choice is wholly to be con- 
ducted by Prudence 100 



A probable opinion may be lawfully deposed, upon Confidence of the 
Sentence of another 109 


He that inquires of several Doctors until he find one answering accord- 
ing to his Mind, cannot by that Inquiry make his Conscience safe .. 113 

A Man may sometimes answer against his own Opinion 115 


The Guide of Souls may sometimes proceed according to the Con- 
science of the Penitent 116 


The probable Sentence of a prudent Man, is more than a probable War- 
ranty to Actions otherwise undeterminable 117 



A doubtful Conscience defined 118 

A negative Doubt binds only to Caution and Observance .... 120 


A privative Doubt cannot obstruct a prudent Inducement 123 


In Doubts of Right, or Law, we are always bound to inquire, but in 
Doubts of Fact not always 1 24 

In Doubts, the safer part is to be chosen 127 

The Conscience may act against a speculative Doubt 133 


Every Judgment of the Conscience is sufficient for the Deposition of 
Doubt 138 

Of two contrary Precepts, the more binding is preferable 140 





A scrupulous Conscience defined 172 


A Conscience sufficiently instructed by proper Arguments may 
proceed to Action against the Scruple 177 


He that is troubled with Scruples, ought to rely upon the Judgment of 
a prudent Guide 180 


When a Doubt is resolved in the Entrance of an Action, we must judge 
of our Action by the same Measures as before ib. 

Remedies of a scrupulous Conscience 182 



The Law of Nature defined 191 


The Law of Nature is the Foundation of all Laws, and the Measure of 
their Obligation 228 

The greatest Band of the Law of Nature is the Fear of Punishment 230 

The second Band of Virtue is Love 236 

The Imperfection of civil Laws is supplied by natural Obligation 241 



Criterion of Sins against the Laws of Nature 252 


Actions forbidden by the Law of Nature are not only unlawful, but also 
void 255 


An Act forbidden by the Law of Nature for the Turpitude of the 
Action is also void when the Turpitude remains 259 

The Law of Nature can be dispensed with by the Divine Power 260 


The Law of Nature cannot be dispensed with by any human Power. . . . 270 


That the Obligation to a natural Law does cease in any particular, is to 
be declared by the public Voice 277 

The Exactness of natural Laws may be allayed by Equity 278 



The Law of Jesus Christ is more obligatory than the Old Testament . . 281 

The Ceremonial Law is void 287 

RULE 111. 
The Judicial Law of Moses is annulled 296 


The Ten Commandments of Moses are not a perfect Digest of the Law of 
Nature 350 


Explications of the Moral Law, found in the Old Testament, are Parts 
of the Moral Law . . .357 



Every Thing in the Decalogue is not obligatory to Christians 360 


There is no state of Men or Things, but is to be guided by the Propor- 
tion of some Rule or Precept in the Christian Law 439 




In negative Precepts, the Affirmatives are commanded ; and in the 
affirmative Commandments, the Negatives are included 465 


When a Negative and an Affirmative seem opposite in any Sense, the 
Affirmative is to be expounded by the Negative, not the Negative 
by the Affirmative 475 


In the affirmative and negative Precepts of Christ, not only what is in 
the Words of the Commandment, but whatsoever is symbolical or 
alike, is equally forbidden or commanded 477 


When any Thing is forbidden by the Laws of Jesus Christ, all those 
Things are forbidden also which follow from that forbidden Action, 
and for whose Sake it was forbidden 485 


The Laws of Jesus Christ are the Measures of the Spirit, and are 
always to be extended to a spiritual Signification 489 


BOOK I. Continued. 





An erroneous Conscience commands us to do what we ought to 
omit ; or to omit what we ought to do, or to do it otherwise 
than we should. 

IN this, there is no other difficulty but in the last clause. 
For when our blessed Lord had propounded an instance of 
perfection, he that not only obeys the counsel, but thinks it 
to be a commandment, and necessary to be done in all times 
and persons, enters into an error at the gate of zeal, arid at 
the same place lets out the excellence of his love. Christ 
hath recommended renunciation of the world, spiritual cas- 
tration for the kingdom of God, dying for our enemies, &c. 
He that in zeal, with charity and prudence, follows these 
advices, will find his reward swell high ; but he whose 
zealous desire to grow towards perfection, shall so deter- 
mine his practice, as that, by degrees, he shall think these 
counsels individually necessary, hath abused his conscience, 
laid a snare for others, put fetters upon Christian liberty, and 
is passed into that state of doing it, that though he entered 



first by love, he is gone beyond it, and changed it into fear, 
and scruple, and superstition : he is at last got so far that 
he would not do it at all, if he durst do otherwise; and 
he dares not, because his love was zealous, and his zeal was 
imprudent, and his imprudence was a furious snare, and the 
passion of a mighty folly. 

But an erroneous conscience is generally abused by two 
manners of proceeding. 1 . By a true application of a false 
proposition, thus : 

Whatsoever is done against my conscience is a sin : 

But to allow of magistrates is against my conscience : 

Therefore, it is certainly a sin that they be allowed. 
The first proposition is not true, unless it be understood of 
him only, against whose conscience it is done, and then it is 
always true, either absolutely, or relatively, originally, or 
accidentally. But if it be intended to conclude, that because 
it is against my conscience to allow them, therefore it is 
simply unlawful, or unlawful to every one else, this is a 
paralogism, and makes an erring conscience. Or, secondly, 
the conscience is abused, and made erroneous by a false 
application of a true proposition. 

Whatsoever is forbidden by God is a sin : 

But every oath is forbidden by God : 

Therefore, every oath is a sin. 

Every thing here is true hut the conclusion. The second 
proposition is true, but not universally. For St. James 
saying, a " Swear not at all," forbids all kinds of oaths 
materially : that is, in that sense in which any is forbidden, 
in the same all are forbidden. Without just authority and 
occasion, it is not lawful to swear by God ; therefore, without 
such authority, neither is it lawful to swear by a creature. 
So that his words mean thus ; except in such a case, " swear 
not at all," that is, not with any kind of oath ; for unless 
that case occurs to warrant it, this or that oath is criminal as 
well as any : that is, it is no excuse in common talk to say, 
' it was but a slight oath ;' for you must not swear at all. 

The Causes of Error are, 
1 . Ignorance, either of right or fact. For no other division 

a James, v. 


of ignorance can concern the relation of an erring conscience. 
For, although a man is otherwise concerned in ignorance, if 
it be vincible, otherwise if it be invincible, yet his will is con- 
cerned in that directly, and his conscience but collaterally 
and indirectly. 

2. Fear, whether it be pusillanimous or superstitious, that 
is, whether it begin upon religion, or upon natural imbecility, 
they alike abuse the conscience. Ignorance makes it erro- 
neous, but takes not away its confidence, but oftentimes 
increases it : fear makes it erroneous too ; and though it 
begins in doubting, it ends in a silly choice, which grows to 
as much confidence as it can, so much as to establish the 

3. To this usually is reduced a morose humility and 
abjection of mind, which, because it looks pitifully and 
simply, some men in charity think it laudable : so Antc- 
nius particularly ; and it is the same that St. Gregory b 
recommends, " Bonarum quippe mentium est, ibi etiam 
aliquo modo culpas suas agnoscere, ubi culpa non est ; 
It is the sign of a good mind to accuse themselves of 
a fault when there is none." Which, if it relates to the 
present affairs , is dangerous and illusive. For if the question 
be in a case of conscience, and the conscience be determined 
upon its proper grounds innocently and right, there to ac- 
knowledge a fault in the conscience or determination, is to 
make the rule itself crooked, to introduce eternal scruples 
and irresolution, to disturb our own peace, and a device to 
snatch at a reward by thrusting it from us, and to think to 
please God by telling of a lie. But if the saying relates to 
all the whole action in all its conjugation of circumstances 
and appendages, then it may consist with humility and pru- 
dence both, to suspect a fault where there is none ; to fear 
lest we have erred by excess of degrees in passion, or by 
remissness and slackness of action, or by obliquity of inten. 
tion, or intertexture of some undecency, or weariness, or 
sensuality, or complacency, and fantastic deliciousness, or 
something secret, and we know not what : but even in this 
case, we may best follow St. Paul's expedient and manner of 
expression, " Nihil rnihi conscius sum, I am guilty of 

b Part. 1. decret. dist. 6. c. 4. 


nothing," my heart smites me not, " Yet I am not hereby 
justified; for God is greater than my conscience :" I may, for 
aught I know, have done something amiss, or my duty not 
well ; but as I cannot accuse myself, so neither can I acquit 
myself, but refer myself to God's equal and merciful sen- 
tence. What goes beyond this, may abuse the conscience, 
not only by a single scruple, but by an evil principle and 
false conclusions : and this, although it looks like modesty, 
and seems contrary to confidence, and therefore cannot be 
so well reduced to this kind of conscience, but to the doubt- 
ing, or the scrupulous ; yet I have chosen to place it here for 
the reason above mentioned. It looks in at the door with a 
trembling eye, but being thrust in, it becomes bold. It is 
like a fire-stick, which, in the hand of a child being gently 
moved , gives a volatile and unfixed light, but being more 
strongly turned about by a swift circular motion, it becomes 
a constant wheel of fire : or like a bashful sinner sneaking 
to his lust, till he be discovered, and then he is impudent and 
hardened. And there are many wise men, who tremble 
in their determinations, and not being able clearly to resolve, 
fall upon one part by chance, or interest, or passion, and then 
they are forced for their peace' sake to put on an accidental 
hardness, and a voluntary, not a natural confidence. But 
this confidence is commonly peevish, impatient, and proud, 
hating all contradiction and contradictors ; because it was 
only an art to sleep, and to avoid the first trouble, and there- 
fore hates every thing that brings them forth from their fan- 
tastic securities. 

Other causes of an erroneous conscience here usually are 
assigned, but inartificially I suppose, arid not of present con- 
cernment or relation. Such as are the subtraction of the Divine 
aids, God's leaving a man, and giving him over el 5 vo-jy adoxipov, 
and to believe a lie ; perplexity, or irresolution, self-love, 
pride, prejudice, and passion : " perit enim omne judicium, 
cum res transierit in affectum ; quia affectus obscurat intellec- 
tum, ne recte judicet," said Seneca. When affection sits 
judge, there reason and truth are seldom admitted to plead ; 
or if they are, yet they cannot prevail. 

Impedit ira animum, ne possit cernere verum. 

But these are no otherwise causes of an erroneous conscience, 


but as they are causes of ignorance, or deception ; for in this 
case I reckon them to be but one; an error being nothing 
else but an ignorance of truth, which whether it be culpable 
or inculpable, and at what gate it enters, is of another disqui- 
sition, and shall be reserved to its proper place. 


An erroneous Conscience binds us to Obedience, but not so as a 
right Conscience does. 

THE object can move the will no otherwise, than as it is pro- 
pounded by the understanding. If it be propounded as evil, 
the will that chooses it under that formality, is criminal and 
malicious. If it be propounded as good, the will that rejects 
it so propounded, despises good; for it is so to the will, if it 
be so to the understanding, which is the judge and the im- 
mediate rule of all human actions. And he that does a good 
thing while he believes it to be evil, does choose the evil, and 
refuse the good ; for he does therefore, because he believes it 
evil, or though he thinks it so, and therefore, is equally dis- 
posed to choose a real evil ; for that this is not so is but 
extrinsical and accidental to his choice. 

If this were not thus, but that it were possible to be 
otherwise, then we might suppose that a man might do a 
thing reasonably, for which he hath no reason ; and a 
humane action without the natural process of humanity, that 
is, to choose by chance, and unnaturally, to choose for a 
reason that he hath not, and a good that appears not, which 
is like beholding of a thing that he sees not. The Jew thinks 
it is his duty to be circumcised, and to keep the Sabbath. 
While in this error he is confident, by what argument can he 
be moved to omit it? If you give him reasons, you seek to 
cure his error, and to alter his persuasion ; but while this 
persuasion is not altered, how can he be moved to omit it ? 
If you give him no reasons, you desire him to omit it be- 
cause he thinks he ought not, and to do an action because 
it seems unreasonable, and follow your opinion because he 
believes it false ; that is, to obey you because he ought not ; 


which is a way not possible to prevail with a wise man, or 
with a fool ; how it may work with any sort of madness, I 
know not. 

But against this rule, some contend earnestly, in par- 
ticular Gulielmus Parisiensis, and some that follow him, 
saying ' it is impossible that an erring or a lying conscience 
should oblige a man to follow it.' The thing hath great 
influence upon our whole life, and therefore is worth a strict 

Quest. Whether a false and abused conscience can oblige 
us to pursue the error ? 

That it cannot, these reasons are or may be pretended. 

1. Because it seems to be absurd to say, that when the 
error itself is not a sin at all, or but a little one, that it can 
be a great sin to follow a man's own humour against that 
error ; if a man should do according to his error, it could at 
most be but a small sin, and therefore, to go against it can- 
not be greater. For the error can oblige no higher than its 
own nature, as rivers cannot rise above their fountains. 

2. But it is a more material consideration ; if an erring 
conscience obliges us to follow it, then some men are bound 
to persecute the Church, and the high priests sinned not in 
crucifying Christ; and the zealots of the Jews did well in 
afflicting the apostles and disciples of Jesus, because they 
did it ignorantly, and by the dictate of an erring conscience; 
and St. Paul says of himself before his conversion, "I my- 
self thought I ought to do many things against the name of 
the Lord Jesus ;" and yet he sinned in following his erring 
conscience; and, therefore, certainly could not be bound to 
it. In pursuance of which, 

3. St. Bernard c argues thus : To follow truth is always 
good ; but if by the conscience we can be bound to follow 
error, and that in that case it is not good to follow truth ; 
that is, if a good may become evil by the sentence of an 
erring conscience, and so great an evil as it supposes it to 
be, then by the same reason that which is evil may, by the 
like sentence, become good, and so great a good as it is 
supposed ; and then may a man be chaste for committing 
adultery, and charitable lor committing murder, and religious 

c Lib. de Praecept. et Dispcns. 


for worshipping idols, and pious to his parents in denying to 
relieve them from the 'corban;' all which consequents being 
intolerable, the antecedent which infers them, must needs be 

4. It is true indeed, the conscience is our guide and our 
lawgiver, our judge and our rule; but it is not our Lord, nor 
in the present case is it an authentic record, but a ^evfavri- 
yguipov, a heap of lies and errors ; and therefore cannot be a 
true guide, and we are not tied to follow any leader to hell. 
Better it is in this case to follow the conscience of a wiser 
and a better man than myself, it being more reasonable 
that we be tied to follow his right, than our own wrong 

5. For if still we were bound to follow our abused con- 
science, then we were bound to impossibilities : for then 
either we were not at all bound to follow God, or if we were, 
and yet bound to follow our conscience against God, we 
were bound at the same time to do and not to do the same 
thing; to ''serve two masters;" which, our blessed Saviour 
said, " No man can do." 

6. But, therefore, in this case God must be obeyed, and 
not man ; it being impious to say that the law of our con- 
science should derogate from, or wholly evacuate, the law of 
God, by which alone we ought to be governed. For if this 
law of conscience takes away the obligation of the Divine 
law, or if the Divine law takes away the obligation of con- 
science when it errs, then they must cease respectively : and 
the event will be this, that as long as God's law binds us 
(which is for ever), the law of an erring conscience cannot 
bind us. 

7. And there are in this, great proportions of reason. 
For if the will be bound to lay down all its rods and axes, all 
the ensigns of empire at the foot of the throne of God, doing 
or refusing by the command of God against its own incli- 
nation, it will not be imagined that the conscience, that is, 
the practical understanding, hath any such privilege indulged 
to it, that it can be exempt from the jurisdiction of God, or 
that it can oblige in defiance of his laws. 

8. For it is certain, conscience is God's creature, bound 
to its Lord and Maker by all the rights of duty and perfect 
subordination, and therefore cannot prejudice the right and 


power of its Lord ; and no wise man obeys the orders of a 
magistrate against the express Jaw of his king ; or the orders 
of a captain against the command of his general ; and, there- 
fore, neither of conscience, which is God's messenger, against 
the purpose of the message with which God intrusted it. 
However, it is hetter to obey God than man ; to follow the 
law of God than to go against it; to do that which we 
should, rather than that which we should not. 

9. And there can be no more necessity upon us to follow 
our conscience teaching us, than our conscience binding us ; 
and yet if a contract that is vicious be made, or an oath that 
is unlawful be uttered, the obligations of conscience cease, 
because they are against the law of God ; and how then can 
conscience against this law of God in any sense pass an 
obligation? But this rather, that as we are bound not to 
commit a crime, so not to follow an error and a lie. 

10. For it is impossible that our opinion, or falsely per- 
suaded conscience, should make any alteration in the thing; 
if it was evil in itself, it is so still; and my thinking that 
mercury is not poison, nor hellebore purgative, cannot make 
an antidote and deletory against them, if I have upon that 
confidence taken them into my stomach ; and the sun is 
bigger than the earth, though I foolishly think it no wider 
than a bushel. And, therefore, in such cases, the conscience 
can have no power, and can bind us to nothing but to lay 
our error down. Because as to him that is in error, it were 
madness to bid him err more; so to him that hath an erring 
conscience, it were equally evil to bid him pursue, and actuate, 
and consummate his error ; which yet he were bound to do, 
if an erring conscience could bind him. 

11. Lastly, if an erring conscience binds us to obedience, 
it either binds us by its own independent, ingenite power, or 
by a power derived from God. If by a power derived from 
God, then God commands us to believe a lie, to commit 
a sin, to run after false fires and illusions, which to affirm, 
seems to be blasphemy ; but if it binds us by its own power, 
then our conscience can make God's law to become unlawful 
to us, and we shall be stronger than God, and a man's self 
becomes his own rule ; and he that is deceived by a false 
opinion, is a lawgiver to himself, and error shall be the 
measure of good and evil. 


These are the arguments which are used by several per- 
sons respectively in verification of the opinion of Parisiensis, 
which I have not only heaped here together, but added some 
and improved the rest, that by the collision of these with 
their answers, the truth might be made more useful and 
evident ; and divers collateral things incident to the main 
question might be spoken of; and those arguments remain 
valid which I brought for the affirmative in the first and 
second paragraphs of this rule. To the first, therefore, I 
answer : 

1. That it is not the error that binds us to follow it, but 
the conscience in error; and, therefore, although the error 
can have no force greater than its own nature and proper 
energy, yet our conscience can bind beyond the force of 
error. As if a general commands a soldier to turn to the 
right hand under pain of death; if he mistaking turn to the 
left, the event is greater than can be effected by the inten- 
tional relations of right or left hand, but depends upon the 
reason and the command, the power and empire of the 

2. To the second, I answer, that it follows not, because 
the erring conscience binds, therefore the obedience is not 
a sin. For such is or may be the infelicity of an abused 
conscience, that if it goes forward, it enters into folly; if it 
resists, it enters into madness ; if it flies, it dashes its head 
against a wall, or falls from a rock ; if it flies not, it is torn 
in pieces by a bear ; and the very instances make it clear ; 
the rulers of the Jews and St. Paul were both called to repent 
of that which they did in obedience to their erring con- 
science, which cannot legitimate impiety, but only make 
the one or the other instance to be unavoidable. 

3. To that which St. Bernard objects, the answer is easy 
upon another account ; for conscience may make a good 
thing evil to it; because, besides the goodness of the object 
to make an action lawful, there is required the faith and per- 
suasion of the agent ; and if this be wanting, as it is in an 
erring conscience that believes not the goodness of it, the 
action is evil, by reason of the destitution of an integral part. 
For, " Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex qualibet particu- 
lar! ;" and by the same reason, conscience cannot make an 
evil thing good, because, besides the persuasion of conscience, 


there is required the goodness of the object, which if it be 
wanting, one ingredient cannot make it good : all must enter 
into the constitution of good, though the want of one is 
enough to spoil it. 

4. To the fourth I answer, that because the conscience is 
in error, and the principle within it is a -^ivfaKiygoKpov, 'a false 
record,' therefore it is true, that we are not absolutely tied to 
follow its conduct, but we are tied to lay the error aside, that 
we may follow it in straight ways ; but in the present con- 
stitution of affairs it is miserable, and because we must fol- 
low our leader, that is, all that can go before us ; we do go 
to hell, or to mischief, not that we are by God bound to do 
this, but only to do that ; and it is by our own fault that we 
are bound to fall into an evil portion. God binds us to follow 
our conscience ; we spoil it by some folly or other, and then 
we follow it : the evil appendage is our own, the law by 
which God bound us was holy. Nature requires of us to 
drink at our meals : but if we have corrupted all our beve- 
rage, we must drink unwholesome draughts, but yet nature 
did not bind us to this misfortune. 

5. And, therefore, the answer to the next objection pro- 
vides us of a remedy against the former. We are bound 
absolutely to follow the law of God ; but we are bound to 
follow the contrary law of conscience erring, conditionally 
and by accident, that is, because we have made our rule 
crooked, which God had made straight. For to be absolutely 
and irrespectively bound to follow God, and yet respectively 
and by accident to be bound to follow the contrary con- 
science, are not incompossibilities, or the parts of a contra- 
diction, because they are not ' ad idem,' not ' in the same 
regards.' But then, since it is impossible that both these 
should be actually followed, therefore God does not com- 
mand us to follow our conscience and not to follow it at the 
same time, but to follow our conscience, and to lay aside the 
error, and then both parts are reconciled ; for God and the 
conscience are but accidentally opposed ; and God com- 
manding us to follow our conscience, took care that at the 
same time we should follow God too ; and therefore God 
taught our conscience; but when we get other teachers, we 
make it impossible to obey God. Let us submit our con- 
science to God, that is, lay aside our error, and then God 


and conscience are not two masters, but one, that is, God ; 
and conscience is his deputy and subordinate. And in order 
to this, it is not ill-advised in the fourth objection, to follow 
the right conscience of a wiser man ; to do so, is a good 
expedient for the laying down our error; but it is not directly 
obligatory, so long as the error is confident ; for I must not 
follow a wiser man in his right, if I believe him to be in the 
wrong; and if I believe him to be in the right, and he really 
be so, then I have laid aside my error, and, indeed, to do this 
is our duty; but this cannot be done till the error be disco- 
vered: till then I must follow my own conscience, not the 
conscience of another man. 

6. To the sixth, I answer, that the law of conscience 
cannot derogate from the law of God, when they are placed 
in the eye of reason over-against each other; that is, when 
the conscience sees the law of God, no law, no persuasion, 
no humour, no opinion, can derogate from it. But an erring 
confident conscience believes that it follows God when it does 
not, so that the law of God hath here a double effect. 
The law of God apprehended by the conscience, binds him 
to action; but the law of God, real and proper, binds the 
man to lay aside his error. For he that goes against the 
matter and the instance of the law of God, does yet at the 
same time obey the sanction and authority, because he pro- 
ceeds to action in obedience to, and in reverence of, the law 
of God. The wife of Amphitryon was kind to her lord, when 
she entertained Jupiter in his semblance ; and, for Sosia's 
sake, Mercury was made much of: and because the error is 
dressed like truth, for truth's sake we hug and entertain the 
error. So here. The law of God is not despised, much less 
evacuated, by following the dictate of conscience, because it 
is for the sake of God's law that this conscience is followed ; 
and therefore, since by accident they are made opposite, the 
event of it cannot be that one must cease, for both may and 
must stand, but nothing must cease but the error. 

7. And therefore, although the wall must cease from its 
own pleasure, when God's will is known to be clear against 
it, yet the understanding must not cease from that which it 
supposes to be the will of God till the error be discovered ; 
but when it is, then it must as much cease from its own ways 


as the will must ; for every understanding, as well as every 
proud will, must be submitted to tbe obedience of Jesus. 

8. For conscience being God's creature, and his subordi- 
nate, cannot possibly prejudice the rights of God; for as soon 
as God's right appears, and his laws are read, conscience 
doth and must obey ; but this hinders not but that con- 
science must be heard when she pretends the law of God for 
her warrant, so long as it is not known but that she says 

9. For it is in this as it is in all contracts and oaths, so 
long as they seem lawful they must be observed, and must 
not be rescinded until it be discovered that they are against 
the law of God ; and so it is with the dictates of an erring 

10. And the reason is plain, because conscience does not 
make a real change in extreme objects (as I have formerly 
discoursed) ; d the things are good or bad by their proportions 
to God's law, and remain so, whatever the conscience thinks : 
but yet they put on vizors and shapes, and introduce acci- 
dental obligations by error. Indeed, the error brings in no 
direct obligation but that it be discovered and laid down : but 
so neither can it hinder but that conscience shall still retain 
the power that God hath given it, directly and principally; 
that is, that it be the man's rule and guide ; for the fallacy 
that runs through all the objections, is this, that the erring 
conscience is in its obligation considered as erring. Now it 
does not bind, as erring, but as conscience; that is, not by 
its error, but by its nature, and the power of God, as being 
the reporter and record of his commands ; against which, he 
that bids our conscience to proceed, indeed gives ill counsel. 
He that counsels a man to follow his erring conscience, in- 
vites him to folly ; he tells him he is in error, and bids him 
not lay it down. But he that advises him to follow his con- 
science, though it happens in the truth of things that his con- 
science be in error, meddles not at all in the countenancing 
the error, but in the power of conscience. 

11. For all the obligation which our conscience passes on 
us, is derivative from God, and God commands us to follow 

d Chap. ii. Rule 9. 


our conscience, but yet he commands us not to sin ; because 
his commanding us to follow our conscience supposes our 
conscience instructed by the Word of God and right reason, 
and God had appointed sufficient means it should be; but 
that conscience offers a sin to the obedience, is wholly the 
man's fault, and besides the intention of God. God hath not 
made us to sin, but hath committed us to the conduct of 
conscience, which, by prevaricating its instructions, hath 
betrayed us. 

By this it appears what manner of obligation is passed 
upon us by an erring conscience; the conscience always 
hath the same commission as being the same faculty, the 
same guide: but because itself is bound to the laws of God 
and right reason, so far as it follows them, so far it binds. 
But because when it is in error, it also pretends them, by them 
it still binds, till the illusion be discovered. Durandus ex- 
pressed this by a distinction of words, in which himself only 
made the difference. " Ligat, sed non obligat :" so he. That 
is, it hath not the same power that is in a right conscience. 
But it binds us so, that we cannot proceed to good. A right 
conscience directly and finally binds us to the action itself: 
an erring conscience cannot do that, because the action it 
offers is criminal, but it makes us take that instead of what it 
ought to bind us to; that is, it hath the same authority, but an 
evil exercise of it : the formal obligation is the same, but when 
it comes to be instanced, it binds us to that in which it hath 
no power. For though it hath power over us, yet it hath no 
direct power in that particular matter. 

Cordubensis and Vasquez contradict this expression of 
Durandus, affirming that an erring conscience does " ligare 
et obligare ;" I cannot well translate the words into a dis- 
tinction, but their meaning is this, that ' we are not bound 
positively to follow the error, but yet so that we must not do 
the contrary.' Which, indeed, is the same thing ; and they 
going to reprove Durandus's distinction, that hath no dif- 
ference, they do it by a contradiction that hath in it no oppo- 
sition. For to say that an erring conscience does so bind 
us that we must not contradict it, is to say that it positively 
binds us to follow it. For if it commands us to follow it, and 
we must not go against that command, is it not notorious 
and evident that we must positively follow it ? But for the 


establishing the measures of obedience in the present case, 
these following rules are the best proportions. 

The Measures of Obedience due to an erring Conscience. 

1. If an erring conscience commands a thing that is of 
itself indifferent, we are bound to follow it, and we may do 
it without sin. Because, if it be indifferent, it is therefore 
lawful, and it cannot cease in itself to be lawful, by being 
supposed to be necessary. Indeed, if a governor commands 
us to do a thing indifferent, and says it is necessary, we may 
not do it under that compliance ; that is, we may not betray 
our Christian liberty, and accept that as simply necessary 
which Christ hath left under liberty. We must do the thing, 
but not own the necessity. But if an erring conscience bid 
us do an indifferent, and represent it as a necessary action, 
though it may be a sin to believe it necessary, yet it is no sin 
to do the action ; for nothing that supervenes, can alter the 
nature of the thing, and a new personal necessity introduced 
by an erring conscience, by making it seem necessary to him, 
changes it not from being lawful in itself. But then it infers 
this also, that as it may be done without sin, so without a sin 
it cannot be left undone : because the error hath made it per- 
sonally necessary, and the truth of God hath made it lawful 

2. If an erring conscience dictate a thing to be good which 
is not good, not to follow that dictate, and not to do that 
thing, is no sin ; because every good is not necessary, and it 
may be good, or seem so ; and yet to omit it in certain circum- 
stances may be equally good or better. 

3. If an erring conscience affirm that which is good, or 
which is indifferent, to be evil and vicious ; as if it says, it is 
a sin to spit upon the pavement of a church, or that it is 
superstition to serve the poor in an hospital, it is no sin to omit 
that indifferent or that commendable action ; because here is 
no command of God to countermand the resolution of con- 
science, and therefore the error may become a snare and a 
hinderance, but no direct cause of sin; because such actions 
in themselves not being necessary, it cannot be criminal upon 
a less reason to omit them. But upon the same account it 
is a sin to do them, because they are not of faith, and the 


conscience being persuaded against them, they are sins. For 
any deficiency of a necessary ingredient makes a sin. 

4. If an erring conscience say that ' such an action is 
lawful only, when of itself it is good and laudable,' we sin 
not if we do it, or if we do it not. For in this case, neither is 
there any direct obligation from God, nor any indirect obliga- 
tion from conscience, and therefore the man is wholly per- 
mitted to his liberty: although it may be a pious action to 
pray kneeling on the ground with bare knees, or prostrate on 
our faces, yet if conscience says it is in no sense laudable, 
but that it is lawful only, we may safely do it; but then there 
is no other effect of such an action, than there is of scratching 
a man's head with one finger : and it cannot be commendable 
in him to do an action, in which he believes there is no 

5. If an erring conscience commands what is simply evil, 
or forbids to do that which is absolutely commanded, the man 
sins, whether he obeys or obeys not. In one case he sins 
against his rule, and in the other against his guide, and any 
one miscarriage is enough to introduce a sin. But this will 
be the matter of the next rule. The use of these rules is 
not at all effective upon erring consciences, while the error 
remains : for the advices supposing the error are not appli- 
cable to them who will not suppose themselves in error. But 
they are applicable to consciences recovered from their error, 
and are useful in the conduct of their repentance, because 
they describe the respective measure of sin and innocence, 
and what obligations of sorrow and amends are left behind 
when the error is gone. 

To these may be added those rules which I have already 
given, 6 concerning the changes which can be made in moral 
actions, by the persuasion and force of conscience. 

e Chap. ii. Rule 9. 



A Conscience erring vincibly or culpably is an unavoidable 
Cause of Sin, whether it be resisted or complied with. 

WHEN the error proceeds of malice or negligence, the 
man is guilty according to the venom of the ingredient : 
there is a sin in the principle, and this leads to an action 
materially evil. He that makes assemblies against his prelate, 
and thinks he may lawfully do it, does an action for which, by 
the laws, he is punishable; but to God he is to answer besides 
the action, for the sin that led him to that error. 

Quest. But if it be inquired, whether that also be a sin 
which is an obedience to his conscience ; that is, whether the 
instance of the action be a sin, beside the malice of the prin- 
ciple, and so every such action become a double sin ? I 
answer, that it is according as the instance is. 

1. If it be against a prime principle, in which we are natu- 
rally, or any way greatly instructed, then the error is culpable 
in that manner that it remains voluntary all the way ; and 
then not only the introduction or first principle, but the effect 
also is a sin. The man hath only put a blind before his eyes, 
and in every reflex action it is discovered, and he knows it 
habitually all the way. And therefore, in this case, the con- 
science ought not to be obeyed/ For the conscience is but 
imperfect and equivocal, violent and artificial. It is per- 
suaded in the act, and convinced of the evil in the habit or 
reflex act, and is no otherwise deceived than a man is blind 
that wears a hood upon his eye. 

2. If the conscience be possessed with a damnable error, 
and in a great matter, and this possession is a dereliction and 
a punishment from God for other crimes, it is no matter 
whether we call the consequent action a sin or no ; for the man 
is in a state of reprobation, and the whole order of things 
and actions in that state are criminal, formally or equivalently. 
His prayers are abomination ; and if so, then the actions that 
are materially evil are much worse, and in estimation are pro- 
secutions of the state of sin. Of this sort are they that are 

f Castropal. torn. i. dist. 1, punct. 6, n. 3. 


given over to believe a lie ; all the consequent actions are 
sins, just as the envies and blasphemies of damned people are 
sins, or as the acts of devils are imputed : they are consigned 
to death, and all the consequent actions are symbolical ; and 
it will be always so unless they can return to a state of 

3. If the conscience be abused in a deduction, conse- 
quence, or less certain proposition, by evil arts and prejudice, 
by interest and partiality, there is so much evil in the whole 
determination, as there was in the introducing cause of the 
error, and no more. For if the action consequent to the per- 
suasion were also a sin, then it ought not to be done ; but 
because in this case the conscience ought to be obeyed, though 
in the whole affair there is a sin, and it is unavoidable, yet 
the sin is antecedent to the action and determination, but no 
proper appendage or qualification of it. And since the object 
in the present case transmits honesty and equity into the 
action, not according to what it is in the thing, but accord- 
ing to what it is in reason, it must needs be that we are obliged 
according to what we find it to be in conscience. For in 
this case we know not what it is in itself, and, therefore, by it 
we cannot be guided to choose or to refuse ; but because we 
must be guided by something, it must be wholly by opinion 
and conscience. 

4. If the conscience be weakly and innocently misguided, 
there is no sin either in the error or in the consequent action. 
Because no man is bound to do better than his best ; and 
if he hath no sin in the principle of his error, it is certain 
he did his best, that is, he did all his duty ; and then to 
proceed by the best light he hath is agreeable to right reason 
and to religion. 

Upon the ground of these conclusions we may easily 
infer, that though an erring conscience is to be followed 
(as it is above explained), and yet that God also is entirely 
to be followed, and that therefore a man, by accident and by 
his own fault, may be entangled " in nervis testiculorum 
leviathan" (as St. Gregory's expression is, out of Job), in the 
infoldings of sin and Satan, and cannot escape innocently so 
long as he remains in that condition ; yet, because he need 
not remain in that condition, but either by suspecting himself, 
or being admonished by another, by inquiry and by prayer he 



may lay his error down, it follows, that to obey God never 
hath an unavoidable dilemma, and never is impossible so 
long as the man is in a state and possibility of repentance. 
Because every error that infers an action that is formally as 
well as materially sinful, not only ought, but may also be, 
deposed or laid down ; because, in such cases, no man is 
invincibly abused. No man can ever be in that condition, 
that to love God shall become a sin to him ; because no man 
can really be ignorant, or properly entertain this opinion, that 
it is a sin to love God ; that rebellion is lawful ; that adultery 
is no sin ; that it can be lawful to strike a prince for justice, 
or to break a commandment to preserve the interest of a sect ; 
that a man may rob God in zeal against idolatry and images. 
These things are so plainly taught, that an error in these 
cannot choose but be malicious. 

But when the error is in such cases where either it is 
invincible and irremediable, or where weakness pleads ex- 
cuse, the action is in that degree innocent in which the 
error is unavoidable ; and if it could be otherwise, then a 
case might happen, in which, by the laws of God, a man 
could be bound to that which is intrinsically evil, and then. 
God, and not man, were the author of the sin. 

The sum is this. God is supreme, and conscience is 
his vicegerent and subordinate. Now it is certain, that 
the law of an inferior cannot bind against the command of a 
superior when it is known. But when the superior commu- 
nicates the notices of his will by that inferior, and no other- 
wise, the subject is to obey that inferior, and in so doing he 
obeys both. But the vicegerent is to answer for the mis- 
information, and the conscience for its error, according to the 
degree of its being culpable. 


It is a greater Sin to do a good Action against our Conscience, 
than to do an evil Action in obedience to it. 

THIS rule concerns degrees only, but is useful in the con- 
ducting some actions of repentance ; and it is to be under- 


stood to be true only in equal cases, and when there is no 
circumstance aggravating one part. Friar Clement, the Jaco- 
bin, thinks erroneously, that it is lawful to kill his king; the 
poor demoiselle Faucette thinks it unlawful to spit in the 
church : but it happened that one day she did it against her 
conscience; and the friar, with his conscience and a long 
knife, killed the king. If the question be here, Who sinned 
most? the disparity is next to infinite ; and the poor woman 
was to be chidden for doing against her conscience, and the 
other to be hanged for doing according to his. Because the 
friar's error could not be invincible and inculpable, hers 
might ; and in such questions, the effect of which is of so 
high concernment, because the errors in them are supreme 
and dangerous, the inquisition ought to be very great where 
there can be difficulty, and therefore the negligence is always 
intolerable, and it is malicious where the discovery is easy, 
as it is in these cases. And therefore, in so different 
materials, the case can no way be equal ; because in one 
there is a greater light, a more ready grace, a perfect instruc- 
tion, an evident provision, an open restraint, and a ready 

But when the effect of the questions is equal, and not 
differenced by accidents, the rule is certain upon this reason ; 
because a sin done against knowledge is greater than a sin 
done ignorantly. He that sins against his conscience, sins 
against all his knowledge in that particular ; but if he sins 
against a commandment which he knows not to be such, he 
sins ignorantly, and therefore the more excusably. " But I 
found mercy," saith St. Paul, " for I did it ignorantly, in 

Upon this account it comes to be the same kind, and the 
same degree of crime, to sin against an erring, and to sin 
against a right conscience, in the same instances. He that 
omits to hear Divine service on a festival, when he hath no 
reasonable impediment, and he who omits it upon a common 
day, which he erroneously supposes to be a festival, hath 
equally prevaricated the law of the Church, and the analogy 
of the commandment of God on which this of the Church is 
founded, they being equally against his rule by which he 
is to walk : and this error hath no influence upon the will 
or choice, but is wholly extrinsical to it. But this is to be 


understood in errors of fact, and such as are inculpable, and 
have no effect, and make no change in the will. 

And, therefore, in our penitential sorrows and expiations, 
we need not be curious to make a difference of them which 
have the same formal malice ; and if we be taught to make 
any, it may have this evil consequence in it, that we may love 
our ignorance, and flatter ourselves in our irregularities, 
which we think will not be so severely imputed, by reason 
of the error. If this be a great crime to disobey our con- 
science, teaching us righteous and true propositions it, is, on 
the other side, also very great to suffer our conscience to be 
so misled, that a good action shall become criminal by such 
mistaking ; so that, besides the departing from our rule, 
which is equal in both, they have their own superadded evil 
to weigh against each other. 


It is not lawful to delight in an evil Action (after the Dis- 
covery of our Error), which we did innocently in an 
erroneous Conscience. 

THE case is this: Quintus Hortensius 3 received a forged 
will of Minucius from some haeredipetee, or testamentary 
cheaters ; and, because they offered to verify it, and to give 
him a share, he defended the forgery, and possessed his part ; 
but when he afterwards perceived the cheat, and yet detained 
the purchase, he grew infamous : it was innocent till he knew 
it, but then it was criminal. He should not have pleased 
himself in it, because he should have restored it. But in this 
there is no question. 

But when the possession or purchase may lawfully remain, 
there is some difference in the decision of the question. Spu- 
rinna, striking a stag, involuntarily and unwittingly kills his 
brother, and becomes rich by the inheritance. Here the man 
must separate the effect from its relation, and so proceed : the 
inheritance was a blessing, the accident was a misfortune ; 
and if he may not rejoice in that, he may not give thanks 
for it, but as for a cross. But if he pleases himself in the 
way of his entrance to it, he had a mind ready to have killed 

Cicer. Off. iii. 17, 5. Heusinger, p. 704. 


his brother if he durst, or at least did secretly wish him dead, 
that he might openly have his living. In this there is no 
great difficulty to make the separation. God strikes a man 
with blindness, and gives him a good memory ; he sighs for 
that, and rejoices for this. A little metaphysics makes this 

2. But concerning the act, when it is discovered to have 
been evil, he is to have no other complacency, but because 
he did it ignorantly. He that suffers nocturnal pollution, if 
he finds a remedy by it, is to rejoice that himself suffered it 
involuntarily, that is, he may rejoice that he did not sin ; 
and of the innocence of the joy he can have no other testi- 
mony but by his hating the act in all cases in which it is a 
sin, and refusing to do it. But the Frenchwoman, whom my 
Lord Montaigne speaks of, who having suffered a rape by 
divers soldiers, gave God thanks, that, without sin, she had 
enjoyed pleasure, had a criminal joy, and delighted in the 
action, for the voluntary entertainment of which she only 
wanted an excuse. 

3. If we consider the whole conjunction of things toge- 
ther, the evil act with the advantageous effect, we are to be 
indifferent to joy and sorrow, that is, to do neither directly, 
but to look on it as an effect of the Divine Providence bring- 
ing good out of evil, and to fear lest a joy in the whole should 
entitle us too nearly to the sin by the relation of an after-act 
and approbation ; or lest we be so greedy of the effect, that 
we be too ready to entertain the like upon terms equally evil, 
but less fortunate. 

4. This is also to be understood only in such cases in 
which we are not obliged to restitution ; for if we rejoice in 
that effect which we ought to destroy, we recall the sin 
from the transient action, and make it dwell with the pos- 
session, and then the first involuntary error becomes a 
chosen rapine. 

5. If the action was only materially, and therefore inno- 
cently, an error against a human law, and turns to our 
secular advantage, we are more at liberty to rejoice and 
please ourselves in the advantage ; because human laws 
make no action intrinsically and essentially evil, but only 
relatively and extrinsically. And therefore the danger is 
not so great of polluting the conscience by the contract and 


mingling of the affections with the forbidden action. He 
that eats flesh in Lent in those places and circumstances 
where it is forbidden, and did not remember it was Lent, or 
did not know it; and by so doing refreshes himself well, and 
does advantage to his health, may not be accused easily, if 
he delights in the whole action, as it joins the error and the 
advantage. For, besides the former reason, this also is 
considerable ; that human laws, not being so wise and 
excellent as Divine laws, do bend more easily and readily, 
that they may comply with the ends of charity and gentle- 
ness, and have in them a more apt dispensation, and almost 
offer themselves to go away, when a greater good comes in 
their room. But of this in its due place. 

6. In actions materially evil against the Divine laws, if 
the event cannot be clearly separated from the irregularity, 
the first innocent error is, by the after-pleasure, turned into 
a direct sin. Cneius Carbo lay with Leolia unwittingly, sup- 
posing her to be his wife Posthumia ; but, afterwards, having 
discovered the error, was pleased in the mistake, because he, 
by the arts of fancy, did, by an after-thought, represent to 
himself the change and the variety, and then he was adul- 
terous. For to be pleased in the mistake which brings no 
advantage separable from the sin, is directly to choose the 
sin for the advantage sake ; and this was Carbo's case. 


A n innocent, or invincibly erring Conscience, is to be obeyed, 
even against the known Commandment of our Superiors. 

AGAINST this St. Bernard* 1 seems to argue earnestly: "Si 
tantopere vitanda sunt scandala parvulorum, quanto amplius 
prselatorum, quos sibi Deus cosequare quodammodo in utro- 
que dignatur, dum sibimet imputat et illorum reverentiam 
et contemptum?" &c. " If with so great caution we must 
be careful that we do not offend any of God's little ones, 
how much more must we be curious to avoid giving offence 
to great ones, to our superiors, whom God seems, in some 

k Lib. de Praecept et Dispens. 


manner, to make equal to himself, while the reverence or 
the contempt that is done to them, he takes unto himself; 
saying, ' He that heareth you, heareth me ; and he that 
despiseth you, despiseth me.' But if you say, that rnen 
may be deceived in their inquest after the will of God, and 
may deceive others in reporting it ; what is that to thee, 
who knowest not that they are deceived ? especially since 
from Scriptures thou art taught, ' That the lips of the priest 
shall preserve knowledge, and they shall require the law at 
his mouth, because he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts.'" 
To which discourse of St. Bernard, the following considera- 
tions may add some moment ; and the discussing them may 
give light to the inquiry. 

2. For in things indifferent the command of the superior 
must needs be accounted the will of God ; for although our 
superiors are executioners of the Divine laws, yet because 
they have also a legislative power, they who can alter 
nothing in things commanded or forbidden by God, must 
have a power to command or to forbid respectively in things 
indifferent, or not at all : and, therefore, in such things our 
conscience is bound to obey. 

3. And if conscience be pretended against it, it is an 
error, and ought to be laid down ; for to follow this erring 
conscience, engages us in sin all the way. 

4. But as he that submits his understanding 1o the 
obedience of Jesus, pleases God most, even when he does 
it in defiance of all arguments and temptations to the con- 
trary, which though he cannot answer, yet he resolves to 
follow Christ ; so he does best who, though his conscience 
pretend reasons against it, will yet lay aside those reasons, 
that he may submit to his superiors. 

5. For it is a great crime by rebelling against or slighting 
the command of our rulers, to give offence to whole societies 
of men ; and there can be no greater contempt done to them, 
than by undervaluing their judgment to prefer our own ; and 
therefore the prophet pronounces wo to them who " are 
wise in their own eyes." 

6. But let a subject be ever so wise, he ought not to 
judge his superior, or to condemn his sentence ; and there- 
fore he must be judged by it, and not by his own erring con- 


7. For as he who hath made a vow of obedience, hath 
divested himself of all pretences of contradicting what shall 
be imposed ; and if his conscience shall check him in the 
instance, he ought to look upon it as a temptation, and use 
it accordingly : so must it be also in every subject, who by 
the laws of God is as much tied to obey his superior, as he 
can be by any law which he puts upon himself. The effect 
of these suggestions is this, that in things where the law of 
God hath not declared positively, an erring conscience is not 
to be attended to ; but the law of the superior, and his sen- 
tence, must be the guide of his conscience. 

To this discourse I answer in short, that it is all very 
true ; that the lawful superiors are God's vicegerents, ap- 
pointed over us in things pertaining to God, so as to be 
executioners of the Divine laws ; and besides this, to make 
laws in things indifferent and pertaining to men ; that all 
contempt done to them is done to God ; that it is scandalous 
to refuse obedience to them ; that he is a proud man who 
says he is wiser than his superiors ; and he is intolerable 
that prefers his private folly before the public wisdom ; and 
therefore it is well inferred, that the error of an abused 
conscience ought to be laid down ; and though he cannot in 
particular answer the arguments which trouble him, yet if 
he have reason to believe that though the arguments be too 
hard for him, the superior's command is innocent ; it were 
well if he would lay aside those arguments, and adhere to 
authority. Yet all this touches not the secret of the ques- 
tion ; for, 

He that compares the law of conscience with the law 
of the superior, compares the law of God and the law of man ; 
and the question is not, whether a man should follow his 
superior or follow himself ?, but, whether God or man be to be 
obeyed, whether the superior or the supreme be to be attended 
to? The reason of this is, because the conscience stands 
bound by the supposed law of God, which being superior to 
all the law of man, must rather be obeyed ; and therefore, 
although the arguments conclude rightly that an erring con- 
science, disobeying his superior's lawful command, does sin 
greatly ; yet they cannot conclude, that he avoids sin by obey- 
ing againsthisconscience ; for his conditionis indeed perplexed, 
and he can no way avoid sin, but by laying his error aside 


first, and then obeying. And since he sins, whether he obeys 
his superior's just command or the unjust command of his 
conscience, the inquiry is, in this sad conjunction of things, 
by what hand he must be smitten, on which side he must 
fall, that he may fall the easier? To this the rule answers, 
that his erring conscience must be obeyed rather, because 
he is persuaded that God speaks there, and is not persuaded 
that God speaks by his superior. Now, though in this he 
be deceived, yet he that will not go there where he thinks 
God is, and leave that where bethinks God is not, does un- 
certainly go towards God, but does certainly forsake him, as 
much as lies in him. For, 

It is to the conscience all one as if the law of God were 
really upon it, if it be thought it is. " Idem est esse et 
apparere"in this case; and therefore the erring conscience 
is to be attended to, because the will and the affections are 
for God, though the judgment hath mistaken a glowworm 
for the sun. But this is to be understood only when the 
conscience errs innocently and unavoidably, which it can 
never do in the precepts of nature, and brightest revelation. 

But if the conscience does err vincibly, that is, with an 
actual fault, and an imperfect, artificial resolution, such a 
one as a good man will not, and a wise man need not have, 
this present persuasion excuses him not from a double sin, 
for breaking a double duty ; for he is bound to correct his 
error, and to perform the precepts of his superior; and if he 
does not, his sin is more than that which was in the vicious 
cause of his mispersuasion, as I shewed in the explication of 
the former rules. 

But according as the ignorance and error approaches 
towards pity, lessening or excusing, so the sin also de- 
clines. He that thinks it is not lawful at all to take up arms 
at the command of his prince, in an unjust or a dubious 
cause, sins if he does what he thinks so unlawful, and he com- 
mits no sin in disobeying, that only excepted which entered 
into his mispersuasion, which is greater or less, or next to 
none at all, according as was the cause of his error, which in 
the whole constitution of affairs he could not well avoid. But 
he that is foolishly persuaded that all government is unlaw- 
ful and antichristian, is bound to lay his error down ; and 
besides the vicious cause of his error, he sins in the evil effect 


of it, though his imperfect, equivocal conscience, calls on him 
to the contrary ; yet he sins if he does not obey, because in 
such notorious and evident propositions an error is not only 
malicious in the principle, but voluntary all the way ; and 
therefore may easily, and must certainly, be laid aside in 
every period of determination. 

Whatsoever cases are between these, partake of the ex- 
tremes, according to their proper reason and relation. 


The Error of an abused Conscience ought to be reformed, some- 
times by the Command of the Will, but ordinarily by a 
contrary Reason. 

1. IF the error did begin upon a probable reason, it cannot be 
reformed but by a reason seeming equal to it, because a less 
reason hath not naturally the same efficacy with a greater; 
and to assent to a less probability against a greater, is to 
do against reason, against all that by which this lesser rea- 
son is outweighed. ' For in this case the will can have no 
influence, which, not being a cognoscitive and discoursing 
faculty must be determined by its own motives when it is not 
determined by reason, that is, by the motives of understand- 
ing. Now the motives of will, when it is not moved by right 
reason, are pleasure and profit, ambition and revenge, par- 
tiality and pride, chance or humour : and how these prin- 
ciples can disabuse a conscience is very hard to understand ; 
how readily and certainly they do abuse it, is not hard. Whe- 
ther the stars be even or odd ? whether the soul be generated, 
or created and infused ? whether it be lawful to fight or rail 
against a prince, what hath the will to do with it ? If the will 
meddles, and makes the resolution, it shall be determined, 
not as it is best, but as it falls out by chance, or by evil, or by 
vain inducements. For in the will there is no argument good 
but reason ; I mean, both in the matter of nature and of grace ; 
that is, reason changed into a motive, and an instrument of 
persuasion, from whatsoever inducing principle. 

1 Vide Chap. iv. 


2. Some have affirmed, J that the error of a conscience 
may fairly be deposed upon any probable argument, though 
of less persuasion ; which, if it could be admitted, would 
give leave for a man to choose his side as he pleases; because, 
in all moral things, as dressed with circumstances, it is very 
easy to find some degrees of probability, but very difficult to 
find a case against which nothing can be disputed. And 
therefore, if it happens that a man be better persuaded of his 
error than of the contrary truth, that truth cannot be chosen 
wisely, nor the error honestly deposed, because it is done 
against the way of a man, not absolutely, but comparatively 
against reason. 

3. If the reason on both sides seems equally probable, the 
will may determine by any of its proper motives that are 
honest ; any prudent interest, any fair compliance, any cus- 
tom, in case these happen to be on the right side. When the 
arguments seem equal, the understanding or conscience 
cannot determine. It must either be a chance, and a special 
providence of God, or a particular grace, that casts us on 
the right side. But whatsoever it be that then determines 
us to the right, if of itself it be innocent, it is in that case 
an effect of God's grace, and an apt instrument of a right 

4. When the conscience is erroneous, and the error un- 
reasonable, commenced wholly upon interest, trifling regards, 
or vicious principles, the error may be deposed honestly, 
though there be no reason thought of to the contrary, 
besides the discovery of the first abuse. The will in this case 
is enough. " Volo servare animam meam," said one; " I 
will, I am resolved to save my own soul." A man may, and 
ought to hate the evil principle of his error, and decline it 
upon the stock of indignation, which in this case is a part of 
repentance. And this insinuates the reason of this discourse. 

Repentance is founded principally in the will ; and what- 
soever a man is to leave upon the stock of repentance, he may 
do it wholly upon the stock of his will, informed or 
general propositions, without any cognizance of the particulars 

J Sanchez, select. 99. disp. 41. num. 27. Merolla in florileg. verb, conscientia, 
num. 14. Bardus de Conscientia, discep. iii. c. 11. 


of the present question. Eratosthenes, coming among the Per- 
sian magi, and observing their looser customs of marrying their 
sisters and their mothers, falls in love with his half-sister 
Lampra, and marries her. A while after, perceiving that he 
entered upon this action upon no other account but lust and 
fancy, and compliance with the impurer magi, he began to hate 
his act for the evil inducement, and threw away her and his 
folly together. This he might do without any further reason- 
ings about the indecency of the mixture, by perceiving that 
a crime or a folly stood at the entrance, and invited him to 
an evil lodging. He that begins without reason, hath reason 
enough to leave off, by perceiving he had no reason to begin : 
and in this case the will is the great agent, which therefore 
here is no ill principle, because it leaves the error upon the 
stock of grace and repentance." 1 

5. If the will entertained the error without any reason at 
all, as oftentimes it does, it knows not why, she may also 
depose it honestly without any reason relating to the particular, 
upon this general, that it could not make the action to be 
conscientious to have it done without any inducement. But 
then the taking up the contrary truth upon as little reason, is 
innocent, because it happens to be on the right side ; but it 
is not virtue nor conscience till it be persuaded by something, 
that is a fit inducement either in the general or in the 


The Error of a Conscience is not always to be opened to the 
erring Person by the Guides of Souls, or any other charit- 
able Adviser. 

IF the error began with a sin, and still dwells there upon the 
same stock, or if it be productive of a sin, it is always to be 
discovered, though the greatest temporal inconvenience were 
certainly consequent to the discovery. Because a man must 
not be suffered to lie in sin, no, not a minute, if he can be 

k Vide Chap. iv. Rule 5. 


recovered or rescued from it ; and no temporal advantage or 
disadvantage can be considerable in this case, which is the 
case of a soul ; an error that is vincible, is all the way crimi- 
nal, and must not be permitted. 

2. If the error be invincible, and innocent or pitiable in 
the cause, and yet ends in an intolerable event, and the effect 
be a crime or a great danger to souls, the error must be 
discovered by them that can. The Novatians erred in the 
matter of repentance : the inducing cause of their error was 
an over-acting zeal, and too wary a tenderness in avoiding 
scandal and judging concerning it. God served the ends of 
his glory by the occasion of that error, for he uses to bring 
good out of every evil ; and the Church, under a better 
article, grew as wary as the Novatians, as watchful against 
scandal, as severe against lapsed persons. Now, although in 
this case the error was from an innocent cause, yet because 
it landed them upon a course of discipline and persuasion 
that was not innocent, they were not to be permitted in their 
error, though the dissolution of the error might or would 
have occasioned the remission of discipline. For their doc- 
trine of repentance was dishonourable to the mercies of God, 
an instrument of despair, a rendering the power of the keys 
and the ministry of the order ecclesiastical in a manner 
wholly useless, and would, if it were pursued to its just 
consequents, have hindered repenting sinners to revert to the 
folds of the Church; and, therefore, for the accidental good 
which God brought, or which was likely to have come, from 
that error or the innocence of its principle, it was not to be 
concealed, but reproved and destroyed because it dwelt in 
sin. He that believes that repentance to be sufficient, which 
hath in it nothing but sorrow for what is past, and a present 
purpose without amendment really in the future, upon no 
pretence is to be complied withal in the palliation of his 
error, because the consequence of his error is such a dan- 
ger, or such a state of sin, for which nothing can make 

3. If the error be invincible, and the consequent of the 
persuasion be consistent with the state of grace, the error 
must be opened or not opened, according to prudent con- 
siderations relating to the person and his state of affairs. So 
that the error must rather be suffered than a grievous 


scandal, or an intolerable, or a very great inconvenience. To 
this purpose Comitolus says, it was determined by a congre- 
gation of learned and prudent persons in answer to a strange 
and a rare case happening in Venice : a gentleman ignorantly 
did lie with his mother ; she knew it, but intended it not, till 
for her curiosity and in her search whether her son intended 
it to her maid, she was surprised and gotten with child : she 
perceiving her shame and sorrow hasten, sent her son to 
travel for many years ; and he returned not till his mother's 
female birth was grown to be a handsome pretty maiden. At 
his return he espies a sweet-faced girl in the house, likes 
her, loves her, and intends to marry her. His mother con- 
jured him by all that was sacred and profane that he should 
not, saying, ' she was a beggar's child, whom for pity's sake 
she rescued from the streets and beggary, and that he should 
not by dishonouring his family make her to die with sorrow.' 
The gentleman's affections were strong, and not to be mas- 
tered, and he married his own sister and his own daughter. 
But now the bitings of the mother's conscience were into- 
lerable, and to her confessor she discovered the whole busi- 
ness within a year or two after this prodigious marriage, and 
asked whether she were bound to reveal the case to her son 
and daughter, who now lived in love and sweetness of society, 
innocently, though with secret misfortune, which they felt 
not. It was concluded negatively, she was not to reveal it, 
lest she bring an intolerable misery in the place of that 
which to them was no sin ; or lest upon notice of the error 
they might be tempted, by their mutual endearment and their 
common children, to cohabit in despite of the case, and so 
change that into a known sin, which before was an unknown 
calamity ; and by this state of the answer, they were per- 
mitted to their innocence, and the children to their inherit- 
ance, and all under the protection of a harmless, though 
erring and mistaken conscience. 

4. If it be doubtful whether more good or hurt may be 
consequent to the discovery, it is better to conceal it; be- 
cause it is more tolerable to have a good omitted, than to 
have an evil done. That may sometimes be lawful, this can 
never ; and a known evil that is not a sin, is rather to be 
admitted than an unknown, which no man can tell whether it 
will arrive. But in this, the prudence of a good and a wise 


man is to be his only guide, and God's glory his only measure 
and the puhlic good, and the greater concernments of the 
interested be chiefly regarded. 




A probable Conscience is an imperfect, Assent to an uncertain 
Proposition, in which one Part is indeed clearly and fully 
chosen, but with an explicit or implicit Notice that the 
contrary is also fairly eligible. 

A PROBABLE conscience dwells so between the sure and the 
doubtful that it partakes something of both. For a sure 
conscience may begin upon a probable inducement, but is 
made either sure by an assent to the conclusion, stronger 
than the premises will infer, or by a reflex act, or some other 
collateral hardness and adventitious confidence, and there- 
fore the probable is distinguished from that by the imper- 
fection of the assent. But because in that respect it ap- 
proaches to the doubtful, and in that is alike, it is differenced 
from this by the determination. For a doubtful conscience 
considers the probabilities on each side, and dares not choose, 
and cannot. But the probable does choose, though it con- 
siders that in the thing itself there can be no certainty. And 
from them both it is distinguished by the intervening of the 
will. For in the sure conscience the will works not at all, 
because it is wholly conducted by the understanding, and its 
proper motives. In the doubtful the will cannot interpose 
by reason offear and an uncertain spirit ; but in the probable 
it can intervene, not directly, but collaterally and indirectly, 
because the motives of the probable conscience are not 
always sufficient to make the conclusion without something 
of the will applied to extrinsical motives, which reflect also 
upon the understanding; and yet in this conscience there is 
no fear, and therefore the will can here be obeyed, which in 
the first needs not, in the last it cannot. For it is remarkable 


that a probable conscience, though it be in speculation 
uncertain, yet it may be practically certain, that is, he that 
believes his opinion to be probable, cannot but think that it 
is possible he may be in an actual error, but yet he may 
know that it is innocent to do that for which he hath a pro- 
bable reason ; for though in all these cases he may choose 
that which is the wrong part, yet he proceeds as safely as if 
he had chosen right : for if it were not safe to do that which 
is only probable, then nothing could be done till something 
were -demonstrated ; and then in moral theology we should 
often stand still and suspend our act, but seldom do any 
thing ; nay, sometimes we should neither act nor suspend, it 
being but probable that either is to be chosen. Yea, some- 
times it happens what Aristotle said, that ( false things are 
made more probable than true,' as it is to all them who are 
innocently and invincibly abused ; and in this case, if pro- 
bability were not a sufficient conviction of conscience, such 
persons could not honestly consent to truth. For even wise 
men disagree in their sentences of truth and error, and after 
a great search, scarcely do they discover one single truth 
unto just measures of confidence ; and, therefore, no other 
law could be exacted for human actions, than an opinion 
honestly entered into, and a probable conscience. And it is 
remarkable that Cicero 1 saith, that the word " arbitror' is 
" verbum consideratissimum ; " and the old Romans were 
reserved and cautious in the decrees ofjudges, and the forms 
of their oath began with ' arbitror,' although they gave testi- 
mony of things whereof they were eye-witnesses ; and the 
words which their praetors did use in their sentences, were 
" fecisse videtur," or " non videtur." " He that observeth 
the winds, shall not sow ; and he that watcheth the clouds, 
shall never reap;" 1 " which means, that if we start at every 
objection, and think nothing safe but what is certain, and 
nothing certain but what can be demonstrated, that man is 
over wise and over just, and by his too curious search misses 
what he inquires for. Aeyotro 8" oiv r/tctvu$, si xara rr,v VKoauftevriv 
uXriv d/atfapjjfo/jj, " That is well enough proved, that is proved 
according to the subject-matter." For there is not the same 
exactness to be looked for in all disciplines, any more than 

1 Pro Font. c. ix Beck, vol. ii. p. 233. m Eccl. xi. 4. 


in all manufactures. But in those things which are honest 
and just, and which concern the public, roaavrriv 'iyji 8ia<pogav 
xal TXaiojv, " there is so much dissension and deception," that 
things are good or bad not by themselves, but as they are in 
law ; fi-TraidsiifJi'svov ydo SSTIV SKI TOSOUTOV rax.gis$ iiri^rirsiv jcaS-' 
txaffrov r /vog, etp' offov q rov ffgay/j!-aros <pvfft$ tKiSsystrai *" He is 
well instructed who expects that manner of proof for things, 
which the nature of the things will bear," said Aristotle. 
And in moral things, it is sufficient that a thing is judged 
true and certain, though by an uncertain argument ; and the 
opinion maybe practically certain, when the knowledge of it 
is in speculation only probable. 

It hath two sorts of motives, intrinsical and extrinsical. 
That is reason, this is authority : and both of them have great 
considerations in order to practice, of which I am to give 
account in the following rules. 


A Conscience that is, at first, and in its own Nature, probable, 
may be made certain by Accumulation of many Probabilities 
operating the same Persuasion. 

EVERY probable argument hath in it something of persuasion 
and proof, and although it cannot produce evidence and 
entire conviction to a wise and a discerning spirit, yet it can 
effect all that it ought ; and although, if the will list, or if 
passions rule, the understanding shall be made stubborn 
against it, and reject it easily ; yet if nothing be put in bar 
against it, it may bring a man to adhere to it beyond the 
evidence. But in some cases there are a whole army of little 
people, heaps of probable inducements which the. under- 
standing amasses together, and from every side gathers all 
that can give light and motion to the article in question ; it 
draws auxiliaries from every thing, fights with every weapon, 
and by all means pursues the victory; it joins line to line, 
and precept to precept, reason to reason, and reason to 

n Ethic, lib. i. c. 3. Wilkinson, p. 5. 


authority ; the sayings of wise men with the proverhs of the 
people; consent of talkers, and the arguings of.disputers ; 
the nature of the thing, and the reasonableness of its 
expectations; the capacities and possibilities of men, and of 
accidents ; the purposes and designs, the usefulness and 
rewards ; and by what all agents are and ought to be moved ; 
customs are mingled with laws, and decencies with consi- 
deration of profit; the understanding considers the present 
state and heap of circumstances, and by prudence weighs 
every thing in its own balance ; it considers the consequent 
of the opinion it intends to establish, and well weighs the 
inconvenience of the contrary; But from the obscurity and 
insufficiency of these particulars, there cannot come a perfect 
light ; if a little black be mingled with white, the product 
must have something of every influence that can be com- 
municated from its principle, or material constitution ; and 
ten thousand millions of uncertains cannot make one certain. 
In this case the understanding comes not to any cer- 
tainty by the energy of the motives and direct arguments of 
probability, or by the first effort and impresses of their 
strength ; but by a particular reflection which it makes upon 
the heap, and by a secondary discoursing extracted from 
the whole ; as being therefore convinced, because it believes 
it to be impossible that so many considerations, that no way 
conspire either in matter or design, should agree in the pro- 
duction of a lie. It is not likely that so many beams of light 
should issue from the chambers of heaven for no other reason 
but to lead us into a precipice. Probable arguments and 
prudential motives are the great hinges of human actions ; 
for as a pope once said, ' It is but a little wit that governs 
the world ;' and the uncertainty of arguments is the great 
cause of contingency in events : but as uncertain as most 
counsels are, yet all the great transactions of the affairs of 
the world are resolved on and acted by them ; by suspicions, 
and fears, and probable apprehensions, infinite evils are pre- 
vented; and it is not, therefore, likely to be an error by which 
so perpetually so many good things are procured and effected. 
For it were a disparagement to the wise providence of God, 
and a lessening the rare economy of the Divine government, 
that he should permit almost all the world, and all regle- 
ments, the varieties of event, and all the changes of king- 


doms, and all counsels and deliberations, to be conducted 
by moral demonstrations, and to be under the power of 
probabilities, and yet, that these should be deceitful and 
false. Neither is it to be imagined, that God should permit 
wise men and good, men that on purpose place their reason 
in indifference, that abate of their heats, and quench their 
own extravagant fires, men that wipe away all clouds and 
mists from their eyes, that they may see clearly, men that 
search as they ought to do for things that they are bound to 
find, things that they are commanded to search, and upon 
which even all their interests depend, and yet, requiring after 
the end whither they are directed, and by what means it is to 
be required, that these men should be inevitably abused by 
their own reason, by the best reason they have; and that 
when concerning the thing which cannot be demonstrated by 
proper arid physical arguments, yet we are to enter into a 
persuasion so great, that for the verification of it men must 
venture their lives and their souls ; I say, if this kind of 
proof be not sufficient to effect all this, and sufficiently to 
assure such men, and competently to affirm and strengthen 
such resolutions, salvation arid damnation must be by chance, 
or, which is worse, it must be impossible to be well, but 
when it cannot choose to be otherwise : and this, I say, is not 
to be imagined that God will or does permit, since all these 
intercourses so much concern God's glory and our eternal 
interests. The main events of heaven and hell do, in some 
regards, depend, as to us, upon our faith, whose objects are 
represented with such lights from God and right reason, as 
are sufficient to persuade, not to demonstrate ; they are such 
which leave something to us of choice and love, and every 
proposition of Scripture, though it be as sure, yet it is not so 
evident, as the principles of geometry ; and the Spirit of God 
effects his purposes with an influence as soft and placid as 
the warmth of the sun, while a physical demonstration blows 
hard and high as the north wind ; indeed a man must use 
rudeness, if he does not quit his garment at so loud a call, but 
we are more willing to part with it, when the sun gently 
requires us : so is a moral demonstration, it is so human, so 
persuasive, so complying with the nature and infirmities of 
man, with the actions of his life and his manner of operation, 


that it seems to have heen created on purpose for the needs 
and uses of man in this life, for virtue and for hopes, for 
faith and for charity, to make us to believe by love, and to 
love by believing ; for in heaven they that see and love can- 
not choose but love, and see, and comprehend ; for it is a 
reward, and fills all their faculties, and is not possessed by us, 
but itself possesses us. In this world where we are to do 
something ourselves, though all by the grace of God, that 
which we do of ourselves is nothing else but to work as we 
ourselves can, which indeed happens to be in propositions, as 
it is in the love of God ; this cannot fail us, but we may fail of 
it: and so are the sentences of religion, infallible in them- 
selves, but we may be deceived, while by a fallible way we 
proceed to infallible notices, for nothing else could endear 
our labour and our love, our search and our obedience ; and 
therefore this must be sufficient and acceptable, if we do 
what we can : but then this also will secure our confidence : 
and in the noises of Christendom, when disputing fellows 
say their brother is damned for not believing them, we need 
not to regard any such noises, if we proceed prudently as we 
can, and honestly as we ought; probable motives of our 
understanding are our sufficient conduct, and then we have 
this warrant : " Brethren, if our hearts condemn us not, then 
have we peace towards God." a And God would never have 
inspired his Church with prudence, or made any such virtue, 
if the things which were put under the conduct of it, that is, 
probabilities, were not instrumental to the service of God, 
and to the verification of all its just and proper productions. 
Probable arguments are like little stars, every one of 
which will be useless as to our conduct and enlightening ; but 
when they are tied together by order and vicinity, by the 
finger of God and the hand of an angel, they make a con- 
stellation, and are not only powerful in their influence, but 
like a bright angel, to guide and to enlighten our way. And 
although the light is not great as the light of the sun or 
moon, yet mariners sail by their conduct; and though with 
trepidation and some danger, yet very regularly they enter 
into the haven. This heap of probable inducements, is not 

1 John, iii. 21. 


of power as a mathematical and physical demonstration, 
which is in discourse as the sun is in heaven, but it makes a 
milky and a white path, visible enough to walk securely. 

And next to these tapers of effective reason, drawn from 
the nature and from the events, and the accidents, and the 
expectations, and experiences of things, stands the grandeur 
of a long and united authority ; the understanding thus 
reasoning, That it is not credible that this thing should have 
escaped the wiser heads of all the great personages in the 
world, who stood at the chairs of princes, or satin the ruler's 
chair, and should only appear to two or three bold, illiterate, 
or vicious persons, ruled by lusts, and overruled by evil 
habits ; but in this we have the same security and the same 
confidence that timorous persons have in the dark ; they are 
pleased, and can see what is, and what is not, if there be a 
candle; but in the dark, they are less fearful if they be in 

This way of arguing some are pleased to call a moral 
demonstration : not that it can make a proposition clear and 
bright, and quit from clouds and obscurity, as a natural 
demonstration can; for I may in this case use Aristotle's 
saying, TOJT-O ptv aXjj^j, dXX' ou aatpsg, " Things of this nature 
may be very true, but are not very evident;' but it can pro- 
duce the same effect, that is, it can lead into truth, not with 
as much brightness, but with as much certainty and infalli- 
bility in the event of things. For a man may as prosperously 
and certainly arrive at his journey's end, though but conducted 
by him that went the way but once before him, as if he had a 
straight path walled in on both sides ; so may we find truth 
as certainly by probabilities, as by demonstrations : we are not 
so sure that we find it, but it is oftentimes as surely found. 
And if the heap arrive at that which we call a moral demon- 
stration, it is as certain that no moral demonstration can 
be opposed against it, as that no natural demonstration can 
be brought in contradiction to a natural. For the under- 
standing cannot call any thing a moral demonstration, till, 
by considering the particulars on both sides, the reason- 
ableness of one, and the unreasonableness of the other, 
with a cold scent, and liberty of spirit, and an unbiassed will, 
it hath passed the sentence for the truth ; and since, in this 
case, all the opposition is between strength and power on one 


side, and weakness and pretence on the other, it is impossible 
that the opposite parts should be demonstrations or seem so 
to the same man. And this appears by this also, that some 
propositions which are only proved by a conjugation of 
probable inducements, have yet obtained as certain and as 
regular events as a natural demonstration, and are believed 
equally, constantly, and perpetually by all wise men, and the 
understanding does regularly receive the same impression, 
and give the same assent, and for ever draws forth the same 
conclusions, when it is not abused with differing prejudices 
and preoccupations, when its liberty and powers are not 
enfeebled with customs, example, and contrary breeding, 
while it is not bribed by interest, or hurried away by passion. 
Of this I shall choose to give one instance, which as it is 
of the greatest concernment in the world in itself, so the gay 
impieties and bold wits of the world, who are witty against 
none more than God and God's wisdom, have made it now 
to be but too seasonable, and that is, that ' the religion of 
Jesus Christ,' or ' the Christian religion, is from God ;' con- 
cerning which I will not now pretend to bring in all the 
particulars whereby each part of it can be verified, but by 
heaping together such heads of probabilities which are, or 
may be, the cause of an infinite persuasion ; and this I had 
rather choose to do for these reasons : 

1. Because many men excellently learned have already 
discoursed largely of the truth of Christianity, and approved 
by a direct and close congression with other religions, by 
examination of the contrary pretences, refutation of their 
arguments, answering their objections, and have by direct 
force so far prevailed, that all the reason of the world appears 
to stand on the Christian side : and for me to do it now, as 
there is no just occasion ministered by this argument, so 
neither can it be useful and necessary. 

2. In that way of arguing, every man that is an adversary 
can answer one argument, and some can reprove many; 
and none can prevail singly to possess all the understanding, 
and to fill all the corners of consideration, but in a moral 
demonstration that can be supplied. 

3. In the other way, an adversary supposes himself to 
prevail, when he can answer the arguments singly : and the 
discourses in that method are like the servants sent singly to 


gather fruits of the husbandmen, they killed them as fast as 
they came, and a man may kill a whole kingdom over, if the 
opponents come by single persons ; but a moral demon- 
stration is like an army which can lose single persons, and 
yet prevail, but yet cannot be beaten, unless it be beaten all. 

4. The few little things that atheistical persons prate 
against the holy Jesus and his most excellent religion, are 
infinitely outweighed by the multitude and variety of things 
to be said for it ; and let the others stand (as if they meet 
with persons that cannot answer them), yet they are sure this 
greater ought to prevail, because it possesses all the corners 
of reason, and meets with every instance, and complies with 
the manner of a man, and is fitted to the nature of things, 
and complies with the will, and persuades the understanding, 
and is a guard against the tricks of sophisters, and does not 
only effect its purpose by direct influence, but is secured by 
reflection upon itself, and does more by its indirect strength, 
and by a back blow, than by its first operations ; and, therefore, 

This instance, and this way of argument, may be of more 
use to those persons who cannot so dispute, but that they are 
apt to be abused by little things, by talkings and imperfect 
arguings ; it may be a defensative against trifling objections, 
and the impious pratings of the ' nequam ingeniosi, the 
witty fools,' while the men are armed by love and prudence, 
and wise securities, to stand with confidence and piety against 
talkings and intrigues of danger ; for by this way best, 
"Wisdom is justified of all her children." 

An Instance of moral Demonstration, or a Conjugation of 
Probabilities, proving that the Religion of Jesus Christ is 
from God. 

THIS discourse, of all the disputables iu the world, shall 
require the fewest things to be granted ; even nothing 
but what was evident, even nothing but the very sub- 
ject of the question, viz. That there was such a man as 
Jesus Christ, that he pretended such things, and taught 
such doctrines : for he that will prove these things to be 
from God, must be allowed that they were from something 
or other. But this postulate I do not ask for need, but for 
order's sake and art ; for what the histories of that age 
reported as a public affair, as one of the most eminent 


transactions of the world, that which made so much noise, 
which caused so many changes, which occasioned so many 
wars, which divided so many hearts, which altered so many 
families, which procured so many deaths, which, obtained so 
many laws in favour, and suffered so many rescripts in the 
disfavour of itself; that which was not done in a corner, but 
was thirty-three years and more in acting ; which caused so 
many sects, and was opposed by so much art, and so much 
power, that it might not grow ; which filled the world with 
noise; which effected such great changes in the bodies of 
men, by curing the diseased, and smiting the contumacious 
or the hypocrites ; which drew so many eyes, and filled so 
many tongues, and employed so many pens, and was the 
care and the question of the whole world at that time, and 
immediately after ; that which was consigned by public acts 
and records of courts, which was in the books of friends 
and enemies ; which came accompanied and remarked with 
eclipses, and stars, and prodigies of heaven and earth ; that 
which the Jews, even in spite, and against their wills, con- 
fessed, and which the witty adversaries intending to over- 
throw, could never so much as challenge of want of truth in 
the matter of fact and story ; that which they who are 
infinitely concerned that it should not be believed, or more, 
that it had never been, do yet only labour to make to appear 
not to have been Divine ; certainly this thing is so certain 
that it was, that the defenders of it need not account it a 
kindness to have it presupposed ; for never was any story in 
the world that had so many degrees of credibility, as the 
story of the person, life, and death of Jesus Christ : and if he 
had not been a true prophet, yet that he was in the world, 
and said and did such things cannot be denied ; for, even 
concerning Mahomet, we make no question but he was in 
the world, and led a great part of mankind after him, and 
what was less proved we infinitely believe ; and what all men 
say, and no man denies, and was notorious in itself, of this 
we may make further inquiries whether it was all that which 
it pretended : for that it did make pretences, and was in the 
world, needs no more probation. 

But now, whether Jesus Christ was sent from God, and 
delivered the will of trod, we are to take accounts from all 
the things of the world which were on him, or about him, or 


from him. Consider, first, his person : he was foretold by all 
the prophets : he, I say, for that appears by the event, and 
the correspondencies of their sayings to his person : he was 
described by infallible characterisms which did fit him, and 
did never fit any but him ; for when he was born, then was 
the fulness of time, and the Messias was expected at the time 
when Jesus did appear, which gave occasion to many of the 
godly then to wait for him, and to hope to live till the time 
of his revelation : and they did so, and, with a spirit of 
prophecy which their own nation did confess and honour, 
glorified God at the revelation : and the most excellent and 
devout persons that were conspicuous for their piety, did then 
rejoice in him, and confess him ; and the expectation of him 
at that time was so public and famous, that it gave occasion 
to divers impostors to abuse the credulity of the people in 
pretending to be the Messias. But not only the predictions 
of the time, and the perfect synchronisms, did point him out, 
but at his birth a strange star appeared, which guided certain 
Levantine princes and sages to the inquiry after him ; a 
strange star which had an irregular place, and an irregular 
motion, that came by design, and acted by counsel, the 
counsel of the Almighty Guide ; it moved from place to 
place, till it stood just over the house where the babe did 
sleep ; a star of which the heathen knew much, who knew 
nothing of him ; a star which Chalcidius affirmed to have 
signified the descent of God for the salvation of man ; a star 
that guided the wise Chaldees to worship him with gifts, as 
the same disciple of Plato does affirm, and as the Holy 
Scriptures deliver. And this star could be no secret : It 
troubled all the country ; it put Herod upon strange arts of 
security for his kingdom ; it effected a sad tragedy acci- 
dentally, for it occasioned the death of all the little babes in 
the city and voisinage of Bethlehem. But the birth of this 
young child, which was thus glorified by a star, was also 
signified by an angel, and was effected by the Holy Spirit of 
God, in a manner which was in itself supernatural ; a Virgin 
was his mother, and God was his father, and his beginning 
was miraculous ; and this matter of his birth of a virgin was 
proved to an interested and jealous person, even to Joseph, the 
supposed father of Jesus ; it was affirmed publicly by all his 
family, and by all his disciples, and published in the midst of 


all his enemies, who by no artifice could reprove it, a matter 
so famous, that when it was urged as an argument to prove 
Jesus to be the Messias, by the force of a prophecy in Isaiah, 
" A virgin shall conceive a son," they who obstinately 
refused to admit him, did not deny the matter of fact, but 
denied that it was so meant by the prophet ; which, if it 
were true, can only prove that Jesus was more excellent 
than was foretold by the prophets, but that there was nothing 
less in him than was to be in the Messias. It was a matter 
so famous, that the Arabian physicians, who can affirm no 
such things of their Mahomet, and yet not being able to deny 
it to be true of the Holy Jesus, endeavour to elevate and 
lessen the thing by saying, * It is not wholly beyond the force 
of nature that a virgin should conceive : ' so that it was on all 
hands undeniable, that the mother of Jesus was a virgin, a 
mother without a man. This is that Jesus, at whose pre- 
sence, before he was born, a babe in his mother's belly also 
did leap for joy, who was also a person extraordinary himself, 
conceived in his mother's old age, after a long barrenness, 
signified by an angel in the temple, to his father officiating 
his .priestly office, who was also struck dumb for his not 
present believing : all the people saw it, and all his kindred 
were witnesses of his restitution ; and he was named by the 
angel, and his office declared to be the forerunner of the 
Holy Jesus ; and this also was foretold by one of the old 
prophets ; for the whole story of this Divine Person is a 
chain of providence and wonder, every link of which is a 
verification of a prophecy, and all of it is that thing which, 
from Adam to the birth of Jesus, was pointed at and hinted 
by all the prophets, whose words in him passed perfectly 
into the event. This is that Jesus, who, as he was born with- 
out a father, so he was learned without a master, he was 
a man without age, a doctor in a child's garment, dis- 
puting in the sanctuary at twelve years old. He was a 
sojourner in Egypt, because the poor babe, born of an indi- 
gent mother, was a formidable rival to a potent king ; and 
this fear could not come from the design of the infant, 
but must needs arise from the illustriousness of the birth, 
and the prophecies of the child, and the sayings of the 
learned, and the journey of the wise men, and the decrees of 
God : this journey, and the return, were both managed by 


the conduct of angel and a Divine dream, for to the Son 
of God all the angels did rejoice to minister. This blessed 
Person, made thus excellent by his Father, and glorious 
by miraculous consignations, and illustrious by the ministry 
of heavenly spirits, and proclaimed to Mary and to Joseph 
by two angels, to the shepherds by a multitude of the hea- 
venly host, to the wise men by a prophecy and by a star, to 
the Jews by the shepherds, to the Gentiles by the three 
wise men, to Herod by the doctors of the law, and to him- 
self perfectly known by the incasing his human nature in 
the bosom and heart of God, and by the fulness of the Spirit 
of God, was yet pleased, for thirty years together, to live 
an humble, a laborious, a chaste and a devout, a regular and 
an even, a wise and an exemplary, a pious and an obscure 
life, without complaint, without sin, without design of fame 
or grandeur of spirit, till the time came that the clefts of the 
rock were to open, and the diamond give its lustre, and be 
worn in the diadems of kings, and then this Person was 
wholly admirable ; for he was ushered into the world by the 
voice of a loud crier in the wilderness, a person austere and 
wise, of a strange life, full of holiness and full of hardness, and 
a great preacher of righteousness, a man believed by all the 
people that he came from God, one who in his own nation 
gathered disciples publicly, and (which amongst them was a 
great matter) he was the doctor of a new institution, and bap- 
tized all the country. Yet this man, so great, so revered, so 
followed, so listened to by king and people, by doctors and by 
idiots, by pharisees and sadducees, this man preached Jesus 
to the people, pointed out the Lamb of God, told that he 
must increase, and himself from all that fame must retire to 
give him place ; he received him to baptism after having with 
duty and modesty declared his own unworthiness to give, 
but rather a worthiness to receive baptism from the holy 
hands of Jesus ; but at the solemnity God sent d6wn the Holy 
Spirit upon his holy Son, and by a voice from heaven, a voice 
of thunder (and God was in that voice), declared that * this 
was his Son, and that he was delighted in him.' This voice 
from heaven was such, so evident, so certain a conviction 
of what it did intend to prove, so known and accepted as the 
way of Divine revelation under the second temple, that at 
that time every man that desired a sign honestly, would have 


been satisfied with such a voice ; it being the testimony by 
which God made all extraordinaries to be credible to his 
people, from the days of Ezra to the death of the nation. 
That there was such a voice, not only then, but divers 
times after, was as certain, and made as evident as things 
of that nature can ordinarily be made. For it being a 
matter of fact, cannot be supposed infinite, but limited to 
time and place, heard by a certain number of persons, and 
was as a clap of thunder upon ordinary accounts, which 
could be heard but by those who were within the sphere of 
its own activity ; and reported by those to others, who are 
to give testimony as testimonies are required, which are 
credible under the test of two or three disinterested, honest, 
and true men ; and though this was done in the presence of 
more, and oftener than once, yet it was a Divine testimony 
but at first, but is to be conveyed by the means of men ; 
and as God thundered from heaven at the giving of the law, 
though that he did so, we have notice only from the books 
of Moses received from the Jewish nation, so he did in the 
days of the Baptist, and so he did to Peter, James, and 
John, and so he did in the presence of the pharisees and 
many of the common people : and as it is not to be supposed 
that all these would join their divided interests for and 
against themselves, for the verification of a lie, so if they would 
have done it, they could not have done it without reproof of 
their own parties, who would have been glad by the discovery 
only to disgrace the whole story ; but if the report of honest 
and just men so reputed, may be questioned for matter of 
fact, or may not be accounted sufficient to make faith when 
there is no pretence of men to the contrary, besides that 
we can have no story transmitted to us, nor records kept, no 
acts of courts, no narratives of the days of old, no tradi- 
tions of our fathers ; so there could not be left in nature any 
usual instrument whereby God could, after the manner of 
men, declare his own will to us, but either we should never 
know the will of heaven upon earth, or it must be that God 
must not only tell it once but always, and not only always 
to some men, but always to all men ; and then, as there would 
be no use of history, or the honesty of men, and their 
faithfulness in telling any act of God in declaration of his 
will, so there would be perpetual necessity of miracles, and 


we could not serve God directly with our understanding, for 
there would be no such thing as faith, that is, of assent with- 
out conviction of understanding ; and we could not please 
God with believing, because there would be in it nothing 
of the will, nothing of love and choice ; and that faith which 
is, would be like that of Thomas, 'to believe what we see 
or hear,' and God should not at all govern upon earth un- 
less he did continually come himself; for thus, all govern- 
ment, all teachers, all apostles, all messengers, would be 
needless, because they could not shew to the eye what they 
told to the ears of men. And it might as well be disbe- 
lieved in all courts and by all princes, that this was not the 
letter of a prince, or the act of a man, or the writing of his 
hand ; and so all human intercourse must cease, and all senses 
but the eye be useless as to this affair, or else to the ear all 
voices must be strangers but the principal, if I say, no reports 
shall make faith. But it is certain, that when these voices 
were sent from heaven and heard upon earth, they prevailed 
amongst many that heard them not, and disciples were mul- 
tiplied upon such accounts ; or else it must be, that none 
that did hear them could be believed by any of their friends 
and neighbours ; for if they were, the voice was as effective 
at the reflex and rebound as in the direct emission, and could 
prevail with them that believed their brother or their friend, as 
certainly as with them that believed their own ears and eyes. 
I need not speak of the vast numbers of miracles which 
he wr'ought ;. miracles which were not more demonstrations 
of his power than of his mercy ; for they had nothing of 
pompousness and ostentation, but infinitely of charity and 
mercy, and that permanent, and lasting, and often: he 
opened the eyes of the blind ; he made the crooked straight ; 
he made the weak strong ; he cured fevers with the touch of 
his hand, and an issue of blood with the hem of his garment, 
and sore eyes with the spittle of his mouth and the clay of 
the earth ; he multiplied the loaves and fishes ; he raised the 
dead to life, a young maiden, the widow's son of Nain, and 
Lazarus; and cast out devils by the word of his mouth: 
which he could never do but by the power of God. For 
Satan does not cast out Satan, nor a house fight against 
itself, if it means to stand long; and the devil could not help 
Jesus, because the holy Jesus taught men virtue, called them 


from the worshipping devils, taught them to resist the devil, 
to lay aside all those abominable idolatries by which the devil 
doth rule in the hearts of men : he taught men to love God, 
to fly from temptations to sin, to hate and avoid all those 
things of which the devil is guilty. For Christianity forbids 
pride, envy, malice, lying, and yet affirms that the devil 
is proud, envious, malicious, and the father of lies : and 
therefore, wherever Christianity prevails, the devil is not wor- 
shipped ; and therefore he that can think that a man, with- 
out the power of God, could overturn the devil's principles, 
cross his designs, weaken his strength, baffle him in his poli- 
cies, befool him and turn him out of possession, and make 
him open his own mouth against himself as he did often, 
and confess himself conquered by Jesus and tormented, as 
the oracle did to Augustus Caesar, and the devil to Jesus 
himself; he, I say, that thinks a mere man can do this, 
knows not the weaknesses of a man, nor the power of an 
angel ; but he that thinks this could be done by compact 
and by consent of the devil, must think him to be an intelli- 
gence without understanding, a power without force, a fool 
and a sot to assist a power against himself, and to persecute 
the power he did assist, to stir up the world to destroy the 
Christians, whose Master and Lord he did assist to destroy 
himself; and when we read that Porphyrius, 5 a heathen, a 
professed enemy to Christianity, did say, 'ijjtfoiJ ripu^'tvou, ns 
^iuv dri/tog/as utfaXsiag fadiro, that " since Jesus was wor- 
shipped, the gods could help no man," that is, the gods 
which they worshipped; the poor, baffled, enervated demons; 
he must either think that the devils are as foolish as they are 
weak, or else that they did nothing towards this declination 
of their power ; and therefore, that they suffer it by a power 
higher than themselves, that is, by the power of God in the 
hand of Jesus. 

But besides that God gave testimony from heaven con- 
cerning him ; he also gave this testimony of himself to have 
come from God, because that " he did God's will ;" for he 
that is a good man, and lives, by the laws of God and of his 
nation, a life innocent and simple, prudent and wise, holy and 
spotless, unreproved and unsuspected, he is certainly by all 

b Euseb. lib. v. c. 1 . praep. Evang. 


wise men, said, in a good sense, to be the son of God ; but 
he who does well and speaks well, and calls all men to glorify 
and serve God, and serves no ends but of holiness and 
charity, of wisdom of hearts and reformation of manners, 
this man carries great authority in his sayings, and ought 
to prevail with good men in good things, for good ends, 
which is all that is here required. But his nature was so 
sweet, his manners so humble, his words so wise and com- 
posed, his comportment so grave and winning, his answers 
so seasonable, his questions so deep, his reproof so severe 
and charitable, his pity so great and merciful, his preachings 
so full of reason and holiness, of weight and authority, his 
conversation so useful and beneficent, his poverty great, but 
his alms frequent, his family so holy and religious, his and 
their employment so profitable, his meekness so incom- 
parable, his passions without difference, save only where zeal 
or pity carried him on to worthy and apt expressions ; a 
person that never laughed, but often wept in a sense of the 
calamities of others ; he loved every man and hated no man; 
he gave counsel to the doubtful, and instructed the ignorant; 
he bound up the broken hearts, and strengthened the feeble 
knees; he relieved the poor, and converted the sinners ; he 
despised none that came to him for relief, and as for those 
that did not, he went to them ; he took all occasions of 
mercy that were offered him, and went abroad for more ; he 
spent his days in preaching and healing, and his nights in 
prayers and conversation with God ; he was obedient to laws 
and subject to princes, though he was the prince of Judea in 
right of his mother, and of all the world in right of his father ; 
the people followed him, but he made no conventions, and 
when they were made, he suffered no tumults ; when they 
would have made him a king, he withdrew himself ; when he 
knew they would put him to death, he offered himself; he 
knew men's hearts, and conversed secretly, and gave answer 
to their thoughts and prevented their questions ; he would 
work a miracle rather than give offence, and yet suffer 
every offence rather than see God his Father dishonoured ; 
he exactly kept the law of Moses, to which he came to 
put a period, and yet chose to signify his purpose only 
by doing acts of mercy upon their sabbath, doing nothing 
which they should call a breach of a commandment, but 


healing sick people, a chanty which themselves would do 
to beasts, and yet they were angry at him for doing it to 
their brethren. In all his life, and in all his conversation 
with his nation, he was innocent as an angel of light: and 
when, by the greatness of his worth, and the severity of his 
doctrine, and the charity of his miracles, and the noises of the 
people, and his immense fame in all that part of the world, 
and the multitude of his disciples, and the authority of his 
sermons, and his free reproof of their hypocrisy, and his dis- 
covery of their false doctrines and weak traditions, he had 
branded the reputation of the vicious rulers of the people, 
and they resolved to put him to death, they who had the 
biggest malice in the world, and the weakest accusations, 
were forced to supply their want of articles against him by 
making truth to be his fault, and his office to be his crime, 
and his open confession of what was asked him, to be his 
article of condemnation : and yet, after all this, they could 
not persuade the competent judge to condemn him, or to find 
him guilty of any fault ; and therefore they were forced to 
threaten him with Caesar's name, against whom then they 
would pretend him to be an enemy, though in their charge 
they neither proved, nor indeed laid it against him : and yet, 
to whatsoever they objected he made no return, but his 
silence and his innocence were remarkable and evident, 
without labour and reply, and needed no more argument 
than the sun needs an advocate to prove that he is the 
brightest star in the firmament. 

Well, so it was, they crucified him ; and when they did, 
they did as much put out the eye of heaven as destroy the 
Son of God ; for when, with an incomparable sweetness, and 
a patience exemplar to all ages and sufferers, he endured 
affronts, examinations, scorns, insolences of rude, ungentle 
tradesmen, cruel whippings, injurious, unjust, and unrea- 
sonable usages from those whom he obliged by all the arts of 
endearment and offers of the biggest kindness at last he went 
to death as to the work which God appointed him, that he 
might become the world's sacrifice, and the great example of 
holiness, and the instance of representing by what way the 
world was to be made happy, even by sufferings, and so 
entering into heaven : that he might, I say, become the 
Saviour of his enemies, and the elder brother to his friends, 


and the Lord of Glory, and the fountain of its emanation. 
Then it was that God gave new testimonies from heaven: the 
sun was eclipsed all the while He was upon the cross, and yet 
the moon was in the full ; that is, he lost his light, not be- 
cause any thing in nature did invest him, but because the 
God of nature (as a heathen at that very time confessed, who 
as yet saw nothing of this sad iniquity) did suffer. The rocks 
did rend, the veil of the temple divided of itself and opened 
the inclosures, and disparked the sanctuary, and made it 
pervious to the Gentiles' eye : the dead arose, and appeared 
in Jerusalem to their friends ; the centurion and divers of 
the people smote their hearts, and were by these strange 
indications convinced that he was the Son of God. His 
garments were parted, and lots cast upon his inward coat : 
they gave him vinegar and gall to drink ; they brake not a 
bone of him, but they pierced his side with a spear, looking 
upon him whom they had pierced ; according to the prophe- 
cies of him, which were so clear, and descended to minutes 
and circumstances of his passion, that there was nothing 
left, by which they could doubt whether this were he or 
no, who was to come into the world. But after all this, 
that all might be finally verified and no scruple left, after 
three days' burial, a great stone being rolled to the face of 
the grave and the stone sealed, and a guard of soldiers 
placed about it, he arose from the grave, and for forty days 
together conversed with his followers and disciples, and 
beyond all suspicion was seen of five hundred brethren at 
once, which is a number too great to give their consent arid 
testimony to a lie, and it being so publicly and confidently 
affirmed at the very time it was done, and for ever after 
urged by all Christians, used as the most mighty demonstra- 
tion, proclaimed, preached, talked of, even upbraided to the 
gainsayers, affirmed by eye-witnesses, persuaded to the 
kindred and friends, arid the relatives and companions of all 
those five hundred persons who were eye-witnesses, it is infi- 
nitely removed from a reasonable suspicion ; and at the end 
of those days was taken up into heaven in the sight of many 
of them, as Elias was in the presence of Elisha. 

Now he of whom all these things are true, must needs be 
more than a mere man ; and that they were true, was affirmed 
by very many eye-witnesses, men who were innocent, plain 



men, men that had no bad ends to serve, men that looked for 
no preferment by the thing in this life ; men to whom their 
master told they were not to expect crowns and sceptres, not 
praise of men or wealthy possessions, not power and ease, 
but a voluntary casting away care and attendance upon 
secular affairs that they might attend their ministry ; poverty 
and prisons, trouble and vexation, persecution and labour, 
whippings and banishment, bonds and death ; and for a re- 
ward they must stay till a good day came, but that was not 
to be at all in this world ; and when the day of restitution 
and recompense should come, they should never know till it 
came, but upon the hope of this and the faith of Jesus, and 
the word of God so taught, so consigned, they must rely 
wholly and for ever. Now let it be considered, how could 
matters of fact be proved better ? and how could this be any 
thing, but such as to rely upon matters of fact ? What 
greater certainty can we have of any thing, that was ever 
done which we saw not, or heard not, but by the report of 
wise and honest persons? especially since they were such, 
whose life and breeding was so far from ambition and pomp- 
ousness, that as they could not naturally and reasonably 
hope for any great number of proselytes, so the fame that 
could be hoped for amongst them, as it must be a matter of 
their own procuring, and consequently uncertain, so it 
must needs be very inconsiderable, not fit to outweigh the 
danger and the loss, nor yet at all valuable by them whose 
education and pretences were against it. These we have 
plentifully. But if these men are numerous and united, it is 
more. Then we have more ; for so many did affirm these 
things which they saw and heard, that t ousands of people 
were convinced of the truth of them : but then if these men 
offer their oath, it is yet more, but yet not so much as we 
have, for they sealed those things with their blood ; they 
gave their life for a testimony ; and what reward can any 
man expect, if he gives his life for a lie? Who shall make 
him recompense, or what can tempt him to do it knowingly ? 
But after all, it is to be remembered, that as God hates lying, 
so he hates incredulity : as we must not believe a lie, so 
neither stop up our eyes and ears against truth ; and what we 
do every minute of our lives in matters of little and of great 
concernment, if we refuse to do in our religion, which yet 


is to be conducted as other human affairs are, by human 
instruments and arguments of persuasion proper to the 
nature of the thing, it is an obstinacy that is as contrary 
to human reason as it is to Divine faith. 

These things relate to the person of the holy Jesus ; and 
prove sufficiently that it was extraordinary, that it was 
Divine, that God was with him, that his power wrought 
in him ; and therefore that it was his will which Jesus 
taught and God signed. But then if nothing of all this 
had been, yet even the doctrine itself proves itself Divine 
and to come from God. 

For it is a doctrine perfective of human nature, that 
teaches us to love God and to love one another, to hurt 
no man, and to do good to every man ; it propines to us 
the noblest, the highest, and the bravest pleasures of the 
world ; the joys of charity, the rest of innocence, the peace 
of quiet spirits, the wealth of beneficence, and forbids us 
only to be beasts and to be devils ; it allows all that God 
and nature intended, and only restrains the excrescences 
of nature, and forbids us to take pleasure in that which is 
the only entertainment of devils, in murders and revenges, 
malice, and spiteful words, and actions ; it permits corporal 
pleasures where they can best minister to health and so- 
cieties, to conversation of families and honour of commu- 
nities ; it teaches men to keep their words that themselves 
may be secured in all their just interests, and to do good to 
others that good may be done to them ; it forbids biting one 
another, that we may not be devoured by one another; and 
commands obedience to superiors, that we may not be ruined 
in confusions ; it combines governments, and confirms all 
good laws, and makes peace, and opposes and prevents wars, 
where they are not just, and where they are not necessary. 
It is a religion that is life and spirit, not consisting in cere- 
monies and external amusements, but in the services of the 
heart, and the real fruit of lips and hands, that is, of good 
words and good deeds ; it bids us to do that to God which is 
agreeable to his excellences, that is, worship him with the 
best thing we have, and make all things else minister to it ; it 
bids us to do that to our neighbour, by which he may be 
better : it is the perfection of the natural law, and agreeable 
to our natural necessities, and promotes our natural ends and 


designs : it does not destroy reason, but instructs it in very 
many things, and complies with it in all ; it hath in it both 
heat and light, and is not more effectual than it is beauteous ; 
it promises every thing that we can desire, and yet promises 
nothing but what it does effect ; it proclaims war against all 
vices, and generally does command every virtue ; it teaches 
us with ease to mortify those affections, which reason durst 
scarce reprove, because she hath not strength enough to 
conquer ; and it does create in us those virtues, which rea- 
son of herself never knew, and, after they are known, 
could never approve sufficiently : it is a doctrine in which 
nothing is superfluous or burdensome, nor yet is there any 
thing wanting, which can procure happiness to mankind, or 
by which God can be glorified : and if wisdom, and mercy, 
and justice, and simplicity, and holiness, and purity, and 
meekness, and contentedness, and charity, be images of God 
and rays of Divinity, then that doctrine in which all these 
shine so gloriously, and in which nothing else is ingredient, 
must needs be from God ; and that all this is true in the 
doctrine of Jesus, needs no other probation but the reading 
the words. 

For that the words of Jesus are contained in the Gospels, 
that is, in the writings of them who were eye-witnesses and 
ear-witnesses of the actions and sermons of Jesus, is not at 
all to be doubted ; for in every sect we believe their own 
records of doctrine and institution ; for it is madness to sup- 
pose the Christians to pretend to be servants of the laws of 
Jesus, and yet to make a law of their own which he made 
not : no man doubts but that the Alcoran is the law of 
Mahomet, that the Old Testament contains the religion of 
the Jews ; and the authority of these books is proved by all 
the arguments of the religion, for all the arguments per- 
suading to the religion are intended to prove no other than 
is contained in those books ; and these having been for 
1500 years, and more, received absolutely by all Christian 
assemblies, if any man shall offer to make a question of their 
authority, he must declare his reasons, for the disciples of 
the religion have sufficient presumption, security and pos- 
session, till they can be reasonably disturbed ; but that now 
they can never be is infinitely certain, because we have a 
long, immemorial, universal tradition, that these books were 


written, in those times, by those men whose names they bear ; 
they were accepted by all churches at, the very first notice, 
except some few of the later, which were first received by 
some churches, and then consented to by all, they were 
acknowledged by the same, and by the next age for genuine, 
their authority published, their words cited, appeals made to 
them in all questions of religion, because it was known and 
confessed that they wrote nothing but that they knew, so 
that they were not deceived ; and to say they would lie 
must be made to appear by something extrinsical to this 
inquiry, and was never so much as plausibly pretended by 
any adversaries ; and it being a matter of another man's will, 
must be declared by actions, or not at all. But besides the 
men that wrote them were to be believed because they did 
miracles, they wrote prophecies, which are verified by the 
event ; persons were cured at their sepulchres, a thing so 
famous that it was confessed even by the enemies of the 
religion : and after all, that which the world ought to rely 
upon, is the wisdom, and the providence, and the goodness 
of God ; all which it concerned to take care that the religion, 
which himself so adorned and proved by miracles and mighty 
signs should not be lost, nor any false writings be obtruded 
instead of true, lest, without our fault, the will of God be- 
come impossible to be obeyed. But to return to the thing : 
all those excellent things which singly did make famous so 
many sects of philosophers, and remarked so many princes 
of their sects, all of them united, and many more which their 
eyes, J/^ara vuxr-coiSuv, dark and dim, could not see, are heaped 
together in this system of wisdom and holiness. Here are 
plain precepts full of deepest mystery ; here are the measures 
of holiness and approaches to God described ; obedience and 
conformity, mortification of the body and elevations of the 
spirit, abstractions from earth, and arts of society and union 
with heaven, degrees of excellences and tendencies to per- 
fection, imitations of God, and conversations with him ; these 
are the heights and descents, upon the plain grounds of 
natural reason, and natural religion, for there isnothingcom- 
manded but what our reason by nature ought to choose, 
and yet nothing of natural reason taught but what is height- 
ened and made more perfect by the Spirit of God; and when 
there is any thing in the religion, that is against flesh and 
blood, it is only when flesh and blood is against us and 


against reason, when flesh and blood either would hinder us 
from great felicity, or bring us into great misery. To con- 
clude, it is such a law, that nothing can hinder men to 
receive and entertain, but a pertinacious baseness and love 
to vice, and none can receive it but those who resolve to 
be good and excellent; and if the holy Jesus had come into 
the world with less splendour of power and mighty demon- 
strations, yet even the excellence of what he taught, makes 
him alone fit to be the master of the world. 

But then let us consider what this excellent person did 
effect, and with what instruments he brought so great things 
to pass. He was to put a period to the rites of Moses, and 
the religion of the temple, of which the Jews were zealous 
even unto pertinacy ; to reform the manners of all man- 
kind, to confound the wisdom of the Greeks, to break in 
pieces the power of the devil, to destroy the worship of all 
false gods, to pull down their oracles, and change their 
laws, and by principles wise and holy to reform the false 
discourses of the world. But see what was to be taught, 
a trinity in the unity of the Godhead, sv rgiat, rgia, 'iv, that 
is the Christian arithmetic, " Three are one, and one are 
three," so Lucian in his Philopatris, c or some other derides 
the Christian doctrine ; see their philosophy, " Ex nihilo 
nihil fit." No: " Ex nihilo omnia, all things are made of 
nothing;" and a Man-God and a God-man, the same per- 
son finite and infinite, born in time, and yet from all eternity 
the Son of God, but yet born of a woman, and she a maid, 
but yet a mother ; resurrection of the dead, reunion of soul 
and body ; this was part of the Christian physics or their 
natural philosophy. But then certainly their moral was easy 
and delicious. It is so indeed, but not to flesh and blood, 
whose appetites it pretends to regulate or to destroy, to re- 
strain or else to mortify ; fasting, and penance, and humility, 
loving our enemies, restitution of injuries, and self-denial, 
arid taking up the cross,- and losing all our goods, and 
giving our life for Jesus: as the other was hard to be- 
lieve, so this is as hard to do. But for whom and under 
whose conduct was all this to be believed, and all this 
to be done, and all this to be suffered? surely for some 
glorious and mighty prince, whose splendour as far out- 

c Bipont. vol. ix. p. 249. 


shines the Roman empire, as the jewels of Cleopatra out- 
shone the swaddling clothes of the babe at Bethlehem. No, 
it was not so neither. For all this was for Jesus, whom 
his followers preached ; a poor babe born in a stable, the 
son of a carpenter, cradled in a cratch, swaddled in poor 
clouts ; it was for him whom they indeed called a God, 
but yet who, all the world knew, and they themselves said, 
was whipped at a post, nailed to a cross ; he fell under the 
malice of the Jews his countrymen, and the power of his 
Roman lords, a cheap and a pitiful sacrifice without beauty 
and without splendour. The design is great, but does not 
yet seem possible ; but, therefore, let us see what instru- 
ments the holy Jesus chose to effect these so mighty changes, 
to persuade so many propositions, to endear so great suffer- 
ings, to overcome so great enemies, to master so many im- 
possibilities, which this doctrine, and this law, from this 
master, were sure to meet withal. 

Here, here it is that the Divinity of the power is pro- 
claimed. When a man goes to war, he raises as great an 
army as he can to out-number his enemy ; but when God 
fights, three hundred men that lap like a dog are sufficient ; 
nay, one word can dissolve the greatest army. He that 
means to effect any thing, must have means of his own pro- 
portionable ; and if they be not, he must fail, or derive them 
from the mighty. See, then, with what instruments the holy 
Jesus sets upon this great reformation of the world. Twelve 
men of obscure and poor birth, of contemptible trades and 
quality, without learning, without breeding ; these men were 
sent into the midst of a knowing and wise world to dispute 
with the most famous philosophers of Greece, to outwit all 
the learning of Athens, to out-preach all the Roman orators ; 
to introduce into a newly settled empire, which would be 
impatient of novelties and change, such a change as must 
destroy all their temples, or remove thence all their gods : 
against which change all the zeal of the world, and all the 
passions, and all the seeming pretences which they could 
make, must needs be violently opposed ; a change that 
introduced new laws, and caused them to reverse the old, to 
change that religion under which their fathers long did 
prosper, and under which the Roman empire obtained so 
great a grandeur, for a religion which in appearance was silly 


and humble, meek and peaceable, not apt indeed to do harm ; 
but exposing men to all the harm in the world, abating their 
courage, blunting their swords, teaching peace and unactive- 
ness, and making the soldiers' arms in a manner useless, and 
untying their military girdle ; a religion which contradicted 
their reasons of state, and erected new judicatories, and made 
the Roman courts to be silent and without causes ; a religion 
that gave countenance to the poor and pitiful (but in a time 
when riches were adored, and ambition esteemed the greatest 
nobleness, and pleasure thought to be the chiefest good) ; it 
brought no peculiar blessing to the rich or mighty, unless 
they would become poor and humble in some real sense or 
other ; a religion that would change the face of things, and 
would also pierce into the secrets of the soul, and unravel 
all the intrigues of hearts, and reform all evil manners, and 
break vile habits into gentleness and counsel : that such a 
religion in such a time^ preached by such mean persons, 
should triumph over the philosophy of the world, and the 
arguments of the subtle, and the sermons of the eloquent, 
and the power of princes, and the interest of states, and the 
inclinations of nature, and the blindness of zeal, and the force 
of custom, and the pleasures of sin, and the busy arts of the 
devil, that is, against wit, and power, and money, and reli- 
gion, and wilfulness, and fame, and empire, which are all the 
things in the world that can make a thing impossible ; this, 
I say, could not be by the proper force of such instruments ; 
for no man can span heaven with an infant's palm, nor govern 
wise empires with diagrams. It were impudence to send a 
footman to command Caesar to lay down his arms, to disband 
his legions, and throw himself into Tiber, or keep a tavern 
next to Pompey's theatre ; but if a sober man shall stand 
alone unarmed, undefended, or unprovided ; and shall tell 
that he will make the sun stand still, or remove a mountain, 
or reduce Xerxes's army to the scantling of a single troop, 
he that believes he will and can do this, must believe he does 
it by a higher power than he can yet perceive ; and so it was 
in the present transaction. For that the holy Jesus made 
invisible powers to do him visible honours, that his apostles 
hunted the demons from their tripods, their navels, their 
dens, their hollow pipes, their temples, and their altars ; that 
he made the oracles silent, as Lucian, Porphyry, Celsus, and 


other heathens confess; that against the order of new things, 
which, let them be ever so profitable or good, do yet suffer 
reproach, and cannot prevail unless they commence in a 
time of advantage and favour, yet that this should flourish 
like the palm by pressure, grow glorious by opposition, thrive 
by persecution, and was demonstrated by objections, argues 
a higher cause than the immediate instrument. Now how 
this higher cause did intervene is visible and notorious : the 
apostles were not learned, but the holy Jesus promises that 
he would send down wisdom from above, from the Father of 
spirits ; they had no power, but they should be invested with 
power from on high ; they were ignorant and timorous, but 
he would make them learned and confident, and so he did : 
he promised that, in a few days, he would send the Holy 
Ghost upon them, and he did so ; after ten days, they felt 
and saw a glorious immission from heaven, lights of movable 
fire sitting upon their heads, and that light did illuminate 
their hearts, and the mighty rushing wind inspired them 
with a power of speaking divers languages, and brought to 
their remembrances all that Jesus did and taught, and made 
them wise to conduct souls, and bold to venture, and prudent 
to advise, and powerful to do miracles, and witty to convince 
gainsayers, and hugely instructed in the Scriptures, and gave 
them the spirit of government and the spirit of prophecy. 
This thing was so public, that, at the first notice of it, three 
thousand souls were converted on that very day, at the very 
time when it was done ; for it was certainly a visible demon- 
stration of an invisible power, that ignorant persons who 
were never taught, should, in an instant, speak all the lan- 
guages of the Roman empire ; and indeed this thing was so 
necessary to be so, and so certain that it was so, so public 
and so evident, and so reasonable and so useful, that it is 
not easy to say whether it was the indication of a greater 
power, or a greater wisdom. And now the means was pro- 
portionable enough to the biggest end : without learning they 
could not confute the learned world ; but therefore God 
became their teacher : without power they could not break 
the devil's violence; but therefore God gave them power: 
without courage they could not contest against all the vio- 
lence of the Jews and Gentiles; but therefore God was their 
strength, and gave them fortitude: without great caution 


and providence they could not avoid the traps of crafty 
persecutors; but therefore God gave them caution, and made 
them provident : and as Bezaleel and Aholiab d received the 
Spirit of God, the spirt of understanding, to enable them to 
work excellently in the tabernacle, so had the apostles to 
make them wise for the work of God and the ministeries of 
his diviner tabernacle, " which God pitched, not man." Im- 
mediately upon this, the apostles, to make a fulness of 
demonstration and an undeniable conviction, gave the spirit 
to others also, to Jews and Gentiles, and to the men of 
Samaria, and they spake with tongues and prophesied ; then 
they preached to all nations, and endured all persecutions, 
and cured all diseases, and raised the dead to life, and were 
brought before tribunals, and confessed the name of Jesus, 
and convinced the blasphemous Jews out of their own pro- 
phets, and not only prevailed upon women and weak men, 
but even upon the bravest and wisest. All the disciples of 
John the Baptist, the Nazarenes and Ebionites, Nicodemus 
and Joseph of Arimathea, Sergius the president, Dionysius 
an Athenian judge, and Polycarpus, Justinus and Irenaeus, 
Athenagoras and Origen, Tertullian and Clemens of Alexan- 
dria, who could not be such fools, as, upon a matter not 
certainly true but probably false, to unravel their former 
principles, and to change their liberty for a prison, wealth for 
poverty, honour for disreputation, life for death, if by such 
exchange they had not been secured of truth, and holiness, 
and the will of God. 

But above all these was Saul, a bold and a witty, a zeal- 
ous and learned, young man, who, going with letters to 
persecute the Christians of Damascus, was, by a light from 
heaven, called from his furious march, reproved by God's 
angel for persecuting the cause of Jesus, was sent to the 
city, baptized by a Christian minister, instructed and sent 
abroad ; and he became the prodigy of the world for learning 
and zeal, for preaching and writing, for labour and sufferance, 
for government and wisdom ; he was admitted to see the 
holy Jesus after the Lord was taken into heaven ; he was 
taken up into paradise ; he conversed with angels ; he saw 
unspeakable rays of glory ; and besides that himself said it, 

d Exod. xxxvi. 1. 


who had no reason to lie, who would get nothing by it here 
but a conjugation of troubles, and who should get nothing 
by it hereafter if it were false ; besides this, I say. that he 
did all those acts of zeal and obedience for the promotion of 
the religion, does demonstrate he had reason extraordinary 
for so sudden a change, so strange a labour, so frequent and 
incomparable sufferings : and, therefore, as he did and suf- 
fered so much upon such glorious motives, so he spared not 
to publish it to all the world, he spake it to kings and princes, 
he told it to the envious Jews : he had partners of his journey 
who were witnesses of the miraculous accident, and in his 
publication he urged the notoriousness of the fact, as a thing 
not feigned, not private, but done at noon-day, under the 
test of competent persons ; and it was a thing that proved 
itself, for it was effective of a present, a great, and a per- 
manent change. 

But now it is no new wonder, but a pursuance of the 
same conjugation of great and Divine things, that the fame 
and religion of Jesus was, with so incredible a swiftness, 
scattered over the face of the habitable world, from one end 
of the earth unto the other ; it filled all Asia immediately, it 
passed presently to Europe, and to the furthest Africans ; 
and all the way it went, it told nothing but a holy and an 
humble story, that he who came to bring it into the world, 
died an ignominious death ; and yet this death did not take 
away their courage, but added much : for they could not fear 
death for that Master, whom they knew to have, for their 
sakes, suffered death, and came to life again. But now 
infinite numbers of persons of all sexes, and all ages, and all 
countries, came in to the holy crucifix ; and he that was 
crucified in the reign of Tiberius, was, in the time of Nero, 
even in Rome itself, and in Nero's family, by many persons, 
esteemed for a God ; and it was upon public record that he 
was so acknowledged ; and this was by a Christian, Justin 
Martyr, urged to the senate, and to the emperors themselves, 
who, if it had been otherwise, could easily have confuted the 
bold allegation of the Christian, who yet did die for that 
Jesus, who was so speedily reputed for a God ; the cross was 
worn upon breasts, printed in the air, drawn upon foreheads, 
carried on banners, put upon crowns imperial ; and yet 
the Christians were sought for to punishments, and exqui- 


site punishments sought forth for them : their goods were 
confiscate, their names odious, prisons were their houses, and 
so many kinds of tortures invented for them, that Domitius 
Ulpianus hath spent seven books in describing the variety of 
tortures the po'or Christian was put to at his first appearing ; 
and yet, in despite of all this, and ten thousand other objec- 
tions and impossibilities, whatsoever was for them, made 
the religion grow, and whatsoever was against them, made it 
grow ; if they had peace, the religion was prosperous, if 
they had persecution, it was still prosperous; if princes 
favoured them, the world came in because the Christians 
lived holily ; if princes were incensed, the world came in 
because the Christians died bravely. They sought for death 
with greediness ; they desired to be grinded in the teeth of 
lions ; and with joy they beheld the wheels and the bended 
trees, the racks and the gibbets, the fires and the burning 
irons, which were like the chair of Elias to them, instru- 
ments to carry them to heaven, into the bosom of their 
beloved Jesus. 

Who would not acknowledge the Divinity of this person, 
and the excellence of this institution, that should see infants 
to weary the hands of hangmen for the testimony of Jesus? 
and wise men preach this doctrine for no other visible reward 
but shame and death, poverty and banishment? and hang- 
men converted by the blood of martyrs springing upon their 
faces, which their impious hands and cords have strained 
through their flesh ? Who would not have confessed the 
honour of Jesus, when he should see miracles done at the 
tombs of martyrs, and devils tremble at the mention of the 
name of Jesus, and the world running to the honour of the 
poor Nazarene, and kings and queens kissing the feet of the 
poor servants of Jesus? Could a few fishermen and a pub- 
lican effect all this for the son of a poor maiden of Judea? 
Can we suppose all the world, or so great a part of mankind, 
can consent by chance, or suffer such changes for nothing? 
or for any thing less than this ? The son of the poor maiden 
was the Son of God, and the fishermen spake by a Divine 
spirit, and they caught the world with holiness and miracles, 
with wisdom and power bigger than the strength of all the 
Roman legions. And what can be added to all this, but this 
thing alone to prove the Divinity of Jesus? He is a God, 


or at least is taught by God, who can foretell future 
contingencies; and so did the holy Jesus, and so did his 

Our blessed Lord, while he was alive, foretold, that, after 
his death, his religion should flourish more than when he was 
alive: he foretold persecutions to his disciples; he foretold 
the mission of the Holy Ghost to be in a very few days after 
his ascension, which within ten days came to pass ; he pro- 
phesied that the fact of Mary Magdalen in anointing the 
head and feet of her Lord, should be public and known as 
the Gospel itself, and spoken of in the same place ; he 
foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and the signs of its 
approach, and that it should be by war ; and particularly, 
after the manner of prophets, symbolically named the nation 
should do it, pointing out the Roman eagles ; he foretold his 
death, and the manner of it ; and plainly, beforehand, pub- 
lished his resurrection, and told them it should be the sio-n 

7 O 

to that generation, viz. the great argument to prqve him to 
be the Christ ; he prophesied that there should arise false 
Christs after him, and it came to pass, to the extreme great 
calamity of the nation ; and lastly, he foretold that his 
beloved disciple, St. John, should tarry upon the earth till 
his coming again, that is, to his coming to judgment upon 
Jerusalem ; and that his religion should be preached to the 
Gentiles, that it should be scattered over all the world, and 
be received by all nations ; that it should stay upon the face 
of the earth till his last coming to judge all the world, and 
that " the gates of hell should not be able to prevail against 
his Church;" which prophecy is made good thus long, till 
this day, and is as a continual argument to justify the 
Divinity of the author: the continuance of the religion helps 
to continue it, for it proves that it came from God, who fore- 
told that it should continue ; and therefore it must continue, 
because it came from God ; and therefore it came from God, 
because it does and shall for ever continue, according to the 
word of the holy Jesus. 

But after our blessed Lord was entered into glory, the 
disciples also were prophets ; Agabus foretold the dearth 
that was to be in the Roman empire in the days of Claudius 
Caesar, and that St. Paul should be bound at Jerusalem ; 
St. Paul foretold the entering in of heretics into Asia after his 


departure ; and he, and St. Peter, and St. Jude, and gene- 
rally the rest of the apostles, had two great predictions, 
which they used, not only as a verification of the doctrine of 
Jesus, but as a means to strengthen the hearts of the dis- 
ciples, who were so broken with persecution : the one was, 
that there should arise a sect of vile men, who should be 
enemies to religion and government, and cause a great 
apostasy, which happened notoriously in the sect of the 
Gnostics, which those three apostles and St. John noto- 
riously and plainly do describe ; and the other was, that 
although the Jewish nation did mightily oppose the religion, 
it should be but for awhile, for they should be destroyed in 
a short time, and their nation made extremely miserable ; but 
for the Christians, if they would fly from Jerusalem, and go 
to Pella, there should not a hair of their head perish. The 
verification of this prophecy the Christians extremely longed 
for, and wondered it stayed so long, and began to be troubled 
at the delay, and suspected all was not well, when the great 
proof of their religion was not verified ; and while they were 
in thoughts of heart concerning it, the sad catalysis did 
come, and swept away one million one hundred thousand of 
the nation, and from that day forward the nation was broken 
in pieces with intolerable calamities : they are scattered over 
the face of the earth, and are a vagabond nation, but yet 
like oil in a vessel of wine, broken into bubbles, but kept in 
their own circles, and they shall never be a united people till 
they are servants of the holy Jesus ; but shall remain with- 
out priest or temple, without altar or sacrifice, without city 
or country, without the land of promise, or the promise of a 
blessing, till our Jesus is their High-Priest, and the Shepherd 
to gather them into his fold. And this very thing is a mighty 
demonstration against the Jews by their own prophets ; for 
when Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Malachi, had prophesied the 
rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, and 
the change of the old law, and the introduction of a new by 
the Messias, that this was he was therefore certain, because 
he taught the world a new law ; and presently after the pub- 
lication of this, the old was abrogate, and not only went into 
desuetude, but into a total abolition among all the world ; 
and for those of the remnant of the scattered Jews, who 
obstinately blaspheme, the law is become impossible to them, 


and they placed in such circumstances that they need not 
dispute concerning its obligation : for it being external and 
corporal, ritual, and at last made also local, when the cir- 
cumstances are impossible, the law that was wholly cere- 
monial and circumstantial must needs pass away : and when 
they have lost their priesthood, they cannot retain the law ; 
as no man takes care to have his beard shaved when his 
head is off. 

And it is a wonder to consider, how the anger of God is 
gone out upon that miserable people, and that so great a 
blindness is fallen upon them ; it being evident and notorious, 
that the Old Testament was nothing but a shadow and um- 
brage of the New ; that the prophecies of that are plainly 
verified in this; that all the predictions of the Messias are 
most undeniably accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ, 
so that they cannot, with any plausibleness or colour, be 
turned any other way, and be applied to any other person ; 
although the Jews make illiterate allegations, and prodigious 
dreams, by which they have fooled themselves for sixteen 
hundred years together, and still hope without reason, and 
are confident without revelation, and pursue a shadow while 
they quit the glorious body ; while, in the meantime, the 
Christian prays for his conversion, and is at rest in the truth 
of Jesus, and hath certain inexpressible confidences and 
internal lights, clarities of the Holy Spirit of God, and loves 
to the holy Jesus produced in his soul, that he will die when 
he cannot dispute, and is satisfied and he knows not how, 
and is sure by comforts, and comforted by the excellence of 
his belief, which speaks nothing but holiness, and light and 
reason, and peace and satisfactions infinite ; because he is 
sure that all the world can be happy if they would live by 
the religion of Jesus, and that neither societies of men nor 
single persons can have felicity but by this, and that, there- 
fore, God, who so decrees to make men happy, hath also 
decreed that it shall for ever be upon the face of the earth, 
till the earth itself shall be no more. Amen. 

Now if, against this vast heap of things, any man shall 
but confront the pretences of any other religion, and see how 
they fail both of reason and holiness, of wonder and Divinity, 
how they enter by force, and are kept up by human interests, 
how ignorant and unholy, how unlearned and pitiful are their 


pretences, the darknesses of these must add great eminence 
to the brightness of that. For the Jews' religion, which 
came from heaven, is, therefore, not now to be practised, 
because it did come from heaven, and was to expire into the 
Christian, it being nothing but the image of this perfection ; 
and the Jews needed no other argument but this, that God 
hath made theirs impossible now to be done, for he that 
ties to ceremonies and outward usages, temples and altars, 
sacrifices and priests, troublesome and expensive rites, and 
figures of future signification, means that there should be an 
abode and fixed dwelling, for these are not to be done by an 
ambulatory people ; and, therefore, since God hath scattered 
the people into atoms and crumbs of society, without temple 
or priest, without sacrifice or altar, without Urim orThummim, 
without prophet or vision, even communicating with them 
no way but by ordinary providence, it is but too evident, 
that God hath nothing to do with them in the matter of that 
religion, but that it is expired, and no way obligatory to 
them or pleasing to him, which is become impossible to be 
acted : whereas, the Christian religion is as eternal as the 
soul of a man, and can no more cease than our spirits can 
die, and can worship upon mountains and caves, in fields 
and churches, in peace and war, in solitude and society, in 
persecution and in sunshine, by night and by day, and be 
solemnized by clergy and laity in the essential parts of it, 
and is the perfection of the soul, and the highest reason of 
man, and the glorification of God. 

But for the heathen religions, it is evidently to be seen, 
that they are nothing but an abuse of the natural inclination 
which all men have to worship a God, whom, because they 
know not, they guess at in the dark ; for that they know 
there is and ought to be something that hath the care and 
providence of their affairs. But the body of their religion is 
nothing but little arts of governments, and stratagems of 
princes, and devices to secure the government of new usurpers, 
or to make obedience to the laws sure, by being sacred, and 
to make the yoke that was not natural, pleasant by some- 
thing that is. But yet for the whole body of it, who sees 
not that their worshippings could not be sacred, because 
they were done by something that is impure? They ap- 
peased their gods with adulteries and impure mixtures, by 


such things which Cato was ashamed to see, by gluttonous 
eatings of flesh, and impious drinkings : and they did " litare 
in humano sanguine," they sacrificed men, and women, and 
children to their demons, as is notorious in the rites of 
Bacchus Omesta amongst the Greeks, and of Jupiter, to 
whom a Greek and Greekess, a Galatian and Galatess, were 
yearly offered ; in the answers of the oracles to Calchas, as 
appears in Homer and Virgil ; who sees not that crimes were 
warranted by the example of their immortal gods, and that 
what did dishonour themselves, they sang to the honour of 
their gods, whom they affirmed to be passionate and proud, 
jealous and revengeful, amorous and lustful, fearful and im- 
patient, drunken and sleepy, weary and wounded ; that the 
religions were made lasting by policy and force, by igno- 
rance and the force of custom, by the preferring an invete- 
rate error, and loving of a quiet and prosperous evil, by the 
arguments of pleasure, and the correspondences of sensuality, 
by the fraud of oracles, and the patronage of vices ; and 
because they feared every change as an earthquake, as 
supposing overturnings of their old error to be the eversion 
of their well established governments ; and it had been 
ordinarily impossible that ever Christianity should have 
entered, if the nature and excellence of it had not been such 
as to enter like rain into a fleece of wool, or the sun into a 
window without noise or violence, without emotion and dis- 
ordering the political constitution, without causing trouble 
to any man but what his own ignorance or peevishness was 
pleased to spin out of his own bowels ; but did establish 
governments, secure obedience, made the laws firm, and the 
persons of princes to be so sacred ; it did not oppose force 
by force, nor 'strike princes for justice;' it defended itself 
against enemies by patience, and overcame them by kind- 
ness ; it was the great instrument of God to demonstrate his 
power in our weaknesses, and to do good to mankind by the 
imitation of his excellent goodness. 

Lastly ; He that considers concerning the religion and 
person of Mahomet, that he was a vicious person, lustful and 
tyrannical, that he propounded incredible and ridiculous 
propositions to his disciples, that it entered by the sword, 
by blood and violence, by murder and robbery, that it 
propounds sensual rewards, and allures to compliance by 



bribing our basest lusts, that it conserves itself by the same 
means it entered; that it is unlearned and foolish, against 
reason and the discourses of all wise men, that it did no 
miracles and made false prophecies : in short, that in the 
person that founded it, in the article it persuades, in the 
manner of prevailing, in the reward it offers, it is unholy, 
and foolish, and rude ; it must needs appear to be void of 
all pretence, and that no man of reason can ever be fairly 
persuaded by arguments, that it is the daughter of God, and 
came down from heaven. Since, therefore, there is nothing 
to be said for any other religion, and so very much for 
Christianity, every one of whose pretences can be proved as 
well as the things themselves do require, and as all the 
world expects such things should be proved ; it follows, that 
the holy Jesus is the Son of God, that his religion is com- 
manded by God, and is that way by which he will be 
worshipped and honoured, and that " there is no other name 
under heaven by which we can be saved, but only by the 
name of the Lord Jesus." He that puts his soul upon this, 
cannot perish ; neither can he be reproved, who hath so 
much reason and argument for his religion. "Sit anima 
mea cum Christianis ; " I pray God " my soul may be num- 
bered amongst the Christians." 

This crage|yov I have here brought as an instance of moral 
demonstration, not only to do honour to my dearest Lord, 
by speaking true and great things of his name, and en- 
deavouring to advance and establish his kingdom, but to 
represent in order to the first intention, that a heap of pro- 
babilities may, in some cases, make a sure conscience : for, 
as Cicero says, 6 " Probabile id est, quod habet in se quan- 
dam similitudinem, sive id falsum est, sive verum." For 
probability is not in the thing properly, for every thing is 
true or false in itself, and even false things may have the 
face and the likeness of truth, and cozen even wise persons. 
It was said of Bias, in Diogenes Laertius/ " Orator summus 
et vehemens, sed in bonam causam dicendi vim omnem 
exercuit ; " he could speak excellently, but then he spake 
best when he had an ill cause. This Lactantius calls * ar- 
gutam malitiam, a cunning and an eloquent malice.' But 

e De Inventione, lib. i. c. 46. Proust, p. 179. 
' Longolii, lib. i. c. 5, n. 3, p. 87. 


then, as falsehood may put on the face of truth, so may 
truth also like itself; and, indeed, every truth that men 
preach in religion, is at least probahle, that is, there is so 
much to be said for it, that wise and good men may be per- 
suaded into every truth ; and the cause that it is only pro- 
bable is by reason of our want of knowledge of things ; but 
if it so happen that there is much to be said for the truth, and 
little or nothing against it, then it is a moral demonstration, 
that is, it ought to persuade firmly, and upon it we may rest 

This only I am to admonish, that our assent in these 
cases is not to be greater than the force of the premises ; and 
therefore, the Church of Rome, offering to prove all her reli- 
gion as it distinguishes from the other divisions of Christ- 
ians only by some prudential motives, or probable induce- 
ments, and yet requiring that all her disciples should believe 
it with Divine and infallible faith, as certainly as we believe a 
mathematical demonstration, does unjustly require brick 
where she gives no straw, and builds a tower upon a bulrush, 
and confesses that her interest is stronger than her argument, 
and that where by direct proof she cannot prevail, she by 
little arts would affright the understanding. For to give a 
perfect assent to probable inducements can neither be reason- 
able nor possible for considering persons, unless these con- 
ditions be in it. 

The Requisites or Conditions of a Moral Demonstration for 
the assuring our Conscience. 

1. That the thing be the most -probable to us in our pre- 
sent condition : for there are summities and principalities of 
probation proportionable to the ages and capacities of men 
and women. A little thing determines a weak person ; and 
children believe infinitely whatsoever is told to them by their 
parents or tutors, because they have nothing to contest 
against it. For in all probable discourses, there is an allay 
and abatement of persuasion by the opposition of argument 
to argument ; but they who have nothing to oppose, and 
have no reason to suspect, must give themselves up wholly 
to it ; and then everything that comes is equally the highest, 
because it fully and finally must prevail. But then that which 
prevails in infancy, seems childish and ridiculous in our youth; 


and then we are concluded by some pretences and pretty 
umbrages of things, which, for want of experiences, we 
think very well of; and we can then do no more ; that is a 
demonstration to us, which must determine us : and these little 
things must then do it, because something must be done, and 
we must do it as wisely as we may, but no man is bound to 
be wiser than he can. As the thing seems, either in its own 
light or in our position, so we are to give our assent unto it. 

2. A heap of probable inducements ought to prevail, as 
being then a moral demonstration, when the thing is not 
capable of a natural ; for then probabilities ought to prevail, 
when they are the best argument we have. For if any man 
shall argue thus : ' It is not probable that God would leave his 
Church without sufficient means to end controversies, and 
since a living infallible judge is the most effective to this 
purpose, it is therefore to be presumed and relied upon, that 
God hath done so : ' this argument ought not to prevail as a 
moral demonstration ; for though there are some semblances 
and appearances of reason in it, " Nihil est tarn incredibile, 
quod non dicendo fiat probabile ; " said Cicero in his Para- 
doxes ; g " there is nothing so incredible, but something may 
be said for it ; " and a witty man may make it plausible, yet 
there are certainties against it. For God hath said expressly, 
that " every man is a liar," and, therefore, we are commanded 
to " call no man master upon earth ; " and the nature of man is 
weak, and his understanding trifling, and every thing abuses 
him, and every man that is wise, sees his own ignorance, and 
he that is not wise is easily deceived, and they who have pre- 
tended to be infallible, have spoken pitiful things, and fallen 
into strange errors, and cannot be guarded from shame without 
a whole legion of artifices and distinctions, and, therefore, it is 
certain that no man is infallible ; and where the contrary is cer- 
tain, the probable pretence is but a fallacy and an art of illusion. 

3. There can be no moral demonstration against the 
word of God, or Divine revelation. He that should flatter 
himself with thinking the pains of hell shall not be eternal, 
because it is not agreeable to the goodness of God to in- 
flict a never-ceasing pain for a sudden and transient plea- 
sure, and that there can be no proportion between finite 

g Prasf. ad Par. 4. Wetzel, p. 240. 


and infinite, and yet God who is the fountain of justice will 
observe proportions ; or if there could be ten thousand more 
little things said to persuade a sinning man into confidences 
of an end of torment; yet he would find himself deceived, 
for all would be light when put into the balance against these 
words of our blessed Saviour, "Where the worm never dies, 
and the fire never goeth out." 

4. Where there is great probability on both sides, there 
neither of them can pretend to be a moral demonstration, or 
directly to secure the conscience: for contradictions can 
never be demonstrated ; and if one says true, the other is a 
fair pretender, but a foul deceiver; and, therefore, in this 
case the conscience is to be secured indirectly and collaterally 
by the diligence of search, the honesty of its intention, the 
heartiness of its assent, the infirmity of the searcher, and the 
unavoidableness of his mistake. 

5. The certainty of a moral demonstration must rely 
upon some certain rule, to which, as to a centre, all the little 
and great probabilities, like the lines of a circumference, 
must turn ; and when there is nothing in the matter of the 
question, then conscience hath, sv p'tya, one great axiom to 
rely upon, and that is, that ' God is just,' and ' God is good, 
and requires no greater probation than he hath enabled us 
to find.' 

6. In probable inducements, God requires only such an 
assent as can be effective of our duty and obedience, such a 
one as we will rely upon to real events, such as merchants 
have when they venture their goods to sea upon reasonable 
hopes of becoming rich, or armies fight battles in hope of 
victory, relying upon the strength they have, as probable to 
prevail ; and if any article of our religion be so proved to us 
as that we will reduce it to practice, own all its consequences, 
live according to it, and in the pursuance of it, hope for 
God's mercy and acceptance, it is an assent as great as the 
thing will bear, and yet, as much as our duty will require ; 
for in these cases no man is wise, but he whose ears and 
heart are open to hear the instructions of any man who is 
wiser and better than himself. 

7. Rules of prudence are never to be accepted against a 
rule of logic, or reason, and strict discourses. I remember 
that Bellarmine, going to prove purgatory from the words of 


our blessed Saviour, " It shall not be forgiven him in this 
world, nor in the world to come ;" argues thus, t If this shall 
not be forgiven in the world to come, then it implies that 
some sins are there forgiven, and, therefore, there is a pur- 
gatory ; because in heaven there are no sins, and in hell there 
are none forgiven. This (says he) concludes not by the rule 
of logicians, but it does by the rule of prudence.' Now this 
to all wise men must needs appear to be an egregious preva- 
rication even of common sense ; for if the rules of logic be 
true, then it is not prudence, but imprudence that contradicts 
them, unless it be prudence to tell, or to believe, a lie. For the 
use of prudence is to draw from conjectures a safe and a wise 
conclusion, when there are no certain rules to guide us. But 
against the certain rules it is folly that declares, not pru- 
dence; and besides that this conjecture of Bellarmine is 
wholly against the design of Christ, who intended there only 
to say, that ' the sin against the Holy Ghost should never be 
pardoned ; ' it fails also in the main inquiry, for although 
there are no sins in heaven, and in hell none are forgiven, 
yet, at the day of judgment all the sins of the penitent shall 
be forgiven and acquitted with a blessed sentence : but 
besides this, the manner of expression is such as may with 
prudence be expounded, and yet to no such purpose as he 
dreams. For if I should say, Aristobulus was taken away, 
that neither in this life, nor after his death, his eyes might 
see the destruction of the Temple, does it follow by the rule 
of prudence, therefore, some people can see in their grave, or 
in the state of separation with their bodily eyes ? But as to 
the main inquiry, what is to be the measure of prudence ? 
For some confident people think themselves very prudent, 
and that they say well and wisely, when others wiser than 
they know they talk like fools : and because no established 
reason can be contradicted by a prudent conjecture, it is 
certain that this prudence of Bellarmine was a hard shift to 
get an argument for nothing, and that no prudential motives 
are to be valued because any man calls them so, but because 
they do rely upon some sure foundation, and draw obscure 
lines from a resolved truth. For it is not a prudential 
motive, unless it can finally rest upon reason, or revelation, 
or experience, or something that is not contradicted by any 
thing surer than itself. 



Of two Opinions equally probable, upon the Account of their 
proper Reasons, one may be safer than another. 

THAT is more probable, which hath fairer reasons ; that is 
more safe, that is furthest distant from a sin : and although 
this be always considerable in the matter of prudence, and in 
the whole conjunction of affairs, yet it is not always a proper 
ingredient in the question. The abbot of Lerius hath the 
patronage of some ecclesiastical preferments in the neigh- 
bourhood ; he, for affection, prefers to one of them an igno- 
rant and a vicious clerk. But, afterwards being troubled in 
conscience, inquires if he be not bound to restitution. He 
is answered, No ; because it is in the matter of distributive 
justice, which binds not to repair that which is past, any 
other ways but by repentance to God, and provisions for the 
future : yet he being perplexed, and unsatisfied, does restore 
so much fruits to the next worthy incumbent, as the former 
unworthy clerk did eat. This was the surer course, and it 
procured peace to him ; but the contrary was the more 
probable answer. It is safer to restore all gains of usury ; 
but it is more probable that a man is not obliged to it. In 
which cases the advantage lies not on that side that is more 
probable, but on that which is more safe ; as in these sen- 
tences that oblige to restitution. For although either part 
avoids a formal sin, yet the safer side also persuades to an 
action that is materially good, such as restitution is ; but not 
to restore, although in these cases it may be innocent, yet, in 
no sense, can it, of itself, be laudable. 

To which also in these cases it may be added, that on the 
safer side there is a physical, or natural and proper certainty, 
that we sin not : on the other, though there is a greater 
probability, that there is no obligation, yet, at most, it can 
make but some degrees of moral certainty. But how far this 
course is to be chosen and pursued, or how far the other is to 
be preferred, will afterwards be disputed. 



An Opinion that is speculatively probable, is not always 
practically the same. 

IN a right and sure conscience the speculative and the prac- 
tical judgment are always united, as I have before* ex- 
plicated; but in opinions that are but probable, the case 
is contrary. It is in speculation probable, that it is lawful 
to baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus; but yet, he that 
shall do this practically, does improbably and unreason- 
ably. If the opinion of the primitive Christians had been 
probable that it is lawful to communicate infants, yet it were 
at no hand fitting to be done in the present constitution of 
affairs ; and it were highly useful, if men would consider this 
effectually; and not from every tolerable opinion instantly 
run to an unreasonable and intolerable practice. 

For a speculation considers the nature of things abstract- 
edly from circumstances physically or metaphysically ; and 
yet when it comes to be reduced to practice, what, in the 
head, was innocent, will, upon the hand, become troublesome 
and criminal. If there were nothing in it but the disorder of 
the novelty, or the disturbance of men's minds in a matter 
that is but probable, it were highly enough to reprove this 
folly. Every man's imperfect discourse or half reasons are 
neither fit to govern the actions of others nor himself. Sup- 
pose it probable (which the Greek Church believes), that the 
consecration of the blessed eucharist is not made by the 
words of institution, but by the prayers of the holy man that 
ministers, the bishop or the priest ; yet when this is reduced 
to practice, and that a man shall omit the words of institution 
or consecration, his practice is more to be reproved than his 
opinion could be possibly allowed. Some think churches 
not to be more sacred than other places : what degree of 
probability soever this can have, yet it is a huge degree of 
folly to act this opinion, and to choose a barn to pray in, 
when a church may be had. 

For there are, in actions, besides the proper ingredients 
of their intrinsical lawfulness or consonance to reason, a 

Chap. ii. 


great many outsides and adherences, that are considerable 
beyond the speculation. The want of this consideration 
hath done much evil in many ages ; and amongst us nothing 
hath been more usual than to dispute concerning a rite or 
sacramental, or a constitution, whether it be necessary, and 
whether the contrary be not lawful ; and if it be found 
probably so as the inquirers would have it, immediately 
they reduced it to practice, and caused disorder and scan- 
dal, schism and uncharitableness, amongst men, while they 
thought that Christian liberty could not be preserved in the 
understanding unless they disorder all things by a practical 
conclusion. " Videasquosdam,quibussua libertas non videtur 
consistere, nisi per esum carnium die Veneris in ejus posses- 
sionem venerint;" b Calvin complains with reason. It is a 
strange folly that men will not think they have possession of 
Christian liberty, unless they break all laws and all customs ; 
as if men could not prove things to be indifferent, and not 
obligatory, unless they certainly omit them. Christian liberty 
consists in the head, not in the hand ; and when we know we 
are free from the bondage, we may yet do the work ; and 
when our gracious Lord hath knocked our fetters off, we may 
yet think it to be fit to do what his stewards command us in 
order to his services. It is free to us to eat or to abstain, to 
contain or to marry ; but he that only marries because he 
would triumph, and brag of his freedom, may get an impe- 
rious mistress instead of a gentle master. By the laws 
of Christian liberty, indifferent things are permitted to my 
choice, and I am not under their power ; but no Christian 
liberty says that I am free from the power of a man, though 
I be from the power of the thing ; and although in specu- 
lation this last was sufficient to be considered, yet when the 
opinion comes to be reduced to practice, the other also ought 
to have been thought upon. And besides this, it is a strange 
pertness and boldness of spirit, so to trust every fancy of my 
own, as to put the greatest interest upon it ; so to be in love 
with every opinion and trifling conceit, as to value it beyond 
the peace of the Church, and the wiser customs of the world, 
or the laws and practices of a wise and well instructed com- 
munity of men. Nothing can make recompense for a certain 

6 Lib. iii. c. 9, Instit. 


change but a certain truth, with apparent usefulness in order 
to charity, piety, or institution. 

These instances are in the matter of religion ; it may also 
happen thus in the matter of justice. When Lamech per- 
ceived something stir in a bush, it was very probable it was 
a wild beast ; but when he came to reduce his opinion to 
practice, he shot at it, and killed a man. And, in the matter 
of justice, there is a proper reason for this rule : because, in 
matters of right or wrong, possession is not to be altered 
without certainty ; and therefore neither can I seize upon my 
goods in another man's hand, unless I be sure they are mine, 
though I were not otherwise restrained by human laws ; 
neither may I expose any thing to danger of which I am 
not certainly master. 

This also is, with great caution, to be observed in the 
matter of chastity. Although it may be true, that, in many 
cases, such or such aspects or approximations may be lawful ; 
that is, those things, so far as they are considered, have no 
dissonance from reason ; yet he that shall reduce this opinion 
to practice, must also remember, that he is to deal with flesh 
and blood, which will take fire, not only from permissions, 
but from prohibitions and restraints, and will pass instantly 
from lawful to unlawful : and although this may not be a sin 
in consideration and discourse, but is to be acquitted by 
the sentence of the schools and pulpit, yet when it comes 
to be viewed and laid before the judgment in the court of 
conscience, and as it was clothed with circumstances, it will 
be found, that when it came to be practised, other parts or 
senses were employed, which cannot make such separations, 
but do something else. 

But if it be asked, ' To what purpose it can be, that any 
man should inquire of the lawfulness of such actions, which, 
whether they be lawful or unlawful, yet may not be done ? ' 
I answer, that ' the inquiry is necessary for the direct avoiding 
a sin in the proper matter of the instance ; ' for he that never 
inquires, sins for want of inquiry, and despises his soul, 
because he takes no care that it be rightly informed : but if 
he inquires, and be answered that the opinion is false, or the 
action criminal, he finds by the answer, that it was worth 
his pains to ask, because by it he is taught to avoid a sin : 
but then, besides the question of lawful or unlawful, there 


are further inquiries to be made concerning fitting and un- 
fitting, offensive or complying, safe or dangerous, abstractedly 
or in relation ; for many things, which are lawful in them- 
selves, become very bad to him that does them, and to him 
that suffers them. 


The greater Probability destroys the less. 

THAT is, it is not lawful ' directly' to choose an opinion, 
that seems less probable, before that which is more probable ; 
I say, * directly ; ' for if the less probable be more safe, it 
becomes accidentally more eligible ; of which I have already* 
given account, and shall add something afterward. 5 But 
without this accident, the degrees of safety are left to follow 
the degrees of probability. For when the safety does not 
depend upon the matter, it must depend upon the reasons of 
the inducement : and because the safety must increase con- 
sequently to the probability, it is against charity to omit 
that which is safer, and to choose that which is less safe. 

For it is not in moral things, as it is in natural, where a 
less sweet is still sweet, though not so sweet as that which 
is more : and the flowers of trefoil are pleasant, though honey 
be far more pleasant ; and Phaedon may be wise, though he 
be not so wise as Plato : because there are degrees of inten- 
sion and remission in these qualities : and if we look upon 
two probable propositions, and consider them naturally, they 
are both consonant to reason in their apparencies, though in 
several degrees. So that if Sempronius choose a less pro- 
bable, before he hath learned what is more probable, he hath 
done well and safely. But when the two probables are com- 
pared, to reject that which is more probable is to do, 1. Un- 
naturally ; 2, and unreasonably ; 3, and imprudently. 

1. Unnaturally. 

In matters proposed to the will, the will may choose 
a less good, and reject the greater; and though it is most 
commonly a great imperfection to do so, yet it is many times 

Rule 2, of this sect. b Chap. v. rule 4. 


innocent ; because it is in the choice of the will, to which it 
is propounded, and no commandment laid upon it. But in 
matters of opinion and intellectual notices, where there is no 
liberty, there is a necessity of following the natural pro- 
portions, that is, that the stronger efficient upon the same 
suscipient should produce the more certain and regular 
effect. " To think or to opine is not free," said Aristotle ; c 
and yet he that chooses the less probable, omitting that 
which is more, makes the determination by his will, not by 
his understanding ; and, therefore, it is not an honest act or 
judgment of conscience, but a production of the will. 

2. It is unreasonable : because in all those degrees of 
unreasonableness, in which the less probable is excelled by 
that which is more probable, a man does wholly proceed 
without and against that reason. And why does he choose 
the less probable? I do not ask why he chooses the less 
probable opinion, that I mean which is so in itself; for 
he may do that because it seems more reasonable, or he 
knows nothing else : but I ask, why he proceeds according 
to a less probable conscience ? that is, why does he choose 
that which he believes to be less probable? for what reason 
does he choose that for which he hath the least reason ? If 
there be no reason to choose that rather than the other, then 
it is an unreasonable thing to do so. If there be a reason, 
which is not in the other, or which is not excelled or equalled 
by it, then the case is altered, and this is not the less pro- 
bable, but equally or more. But, supposing it less probable, 
it is a contradiction to say a man can reasonably choose it. 
For if he could, there must be some greater reason in that 
which hath less reason ; something there must be in it, 
whereby it can be preferred, or be more eligible, which is 
directly against the supposition and state of the question. 
The unreasonableness of this we may also perceive by the 
necessities of mankind, which are served by the more pro- 
bable, and disserved by that which is less. For thus judges 
are bound for the interest of all parties, and the reasonable- 
ness of the thing, to judge on that side where the sentence is 
most probable : and the physician, in prescribing medicines, 
must not choose that which he least confides in, and reject 

Lib. ii. de Anima, text. 153. 


that which he rather trusts. And why do all the world, in 
their assemblies, take that sentence which is chosen by the 
greater part ? but because that is presumed more probable, 
and that which is so, ought to be followed ; and why it ought 
not to be so in matters of our soul, is not easily to be 
told, unless our conscience may be governed by will rather 
than by reason, or that the interest of souls is wholly 

3. It is also imprudent : a man that believes a less 
probable, is light of heart, he is incurious of his danger, 
and does not use those means in order to his great end 
which himself judges the most reasonable, effective, and 
expedient. He does, as Rehoboam did, who rejected the 
wiser counsel of the seniors, and chose the less likely sentence 
of the young gallants, and does against the advice of all 
those rules which are prescribed us in prudent choice ; and 
if no man ever advised another to choose that which is less 
reasonable, he that does so, does against the wisdom and 
the interest of all the wise men in the world. 

4. After all this, it is not honest to do it. For in two 
probables, only one of them is true ; and which that is, he 
can only take the best way of the best reason to find out ; 
and it is impossible he should believe that which to him 
seems less likely, to be the more likely ; and, therefore, so 
far as is in him, he chooses that which is false, and volun- 
tarily abuses his conscience ; which, besides the folly of it, 
is also criminal and malicious. 

This doctrine thus delivered was the opinion of the 
ancient casuists, Angelus, Sylvester, Cordubensis, Cajetan, 
and some others ; but fiercely opposed by the latter, who are 
bold and confident to say that their opinion is the common 
and more received, and it relies upon these reasons : 

1 . Because if it were unlawful to follow the less probable 
and to leave the greater, it is because there is danger in so 
doing, and no man ought to expose himself to a danger of 
sinning^ but this pretence is nothing ; for, by the consent of 
all sides, it is lawful to follow the more probable, though it 
be less safe ; and, therefore, all danger of sinning is not, 
under pain of sin, to be avoided. 

2. The people are not tied to greater severity in 
their practices, than the doctors are in their sermons and 


discourses, nor yet so much : because, in these, an error is 
an evil principle, and apt to be of mischievous effect and 
dissemination ; whereas an error in practice, because it is 
singular and circumstantiate, is also personal and limited. 
But the doctors may lawfully teach an opinion less probable, 
if they be moved to it by the authority of some more 
eminent person. 

3. It is confessed to be lawful to follow the opinion that 
is more probable ; but that it is lawful to leave the more 
probable and to follow the less, say they, is the more common 
and received opinion, and therefore also more probable ; and 
therefore this opinion may be chosen and pursued ; and 
then, because we may follow that opinion which is more 
probable, we may follow that which is less, because it is 
more probable that we may. 

These objections I answer : 

1. That the danger of sinning is not the only reason why 
we may not follow the less probable opinion ; for it is not 
always lawful to expose ourselves to a danger of sinning ; 
for sometimes it is necessary that we endure a noble trial, 
and resist openly, and oppose an enemy, which cannot be 
done without danger, but is often without sin ; but to leave 
the more probable for the less is not only a danger of sinning, 
but a sin directly, and beyond a danger ; and if it were not 
more than a mere danger, it could not be a sin. For besides 
that this hath danger, it is a most unreasonable and a most 
unnatural thing against the designs of God, and the proper 
effects of reason. But, besides, this way of arguing is neither 
good in logic nor in conscience. He that can answer one of 
my arguments, does not presently overthrow my proposition ; 
and it is not safe to venture upon an action, because the con- 
trary relies upon one weak leg. But then as to the instance 
in this argument, I answer, he that follows the more pro- 
bable, though it be less safe, does not expose himself to 
any danger at all of sinning, because though he does not 
follow his greatest fears, yet he follows his greatest reason, 
and in that he is sometimes safest, though he perceives it 
not : however, there is in this case no danger that is 
imputable to the man that follows the best reason he hath. 
But this excuses not him who follows that which seems to 
him to have in it less reason ; for unless it be by some other 


intervening accident, which may alter the case (of which I 
shall afterwards give account), the less probable opinion 
hath in it a direct clangor, and therefore to choose it, is 
ordinarily against charity and, in sumo degree, against con- 
science itself. 

2. To the second I answer, that both doctors and the 
people, though they may safely follow the less probable 
opinion, yet they may never directly follow a less probable 
conscience : that is, though a probable opinion is a sufficient 
guide of conscience, and it is sufficient both for publication 
and for practice that it is so ; and, therefore, that we are 
not strictly tied to make a curious search into the two pro- 
bables, which excels others in the degrees of reason, lest 
there should arise eternal scruples, perpetual restlessness 
and dissatisfaction, in the minds of men ; yet when of two 
probables there is an actual persuasion that this is more, and 
that is less, neither may the doctors teach, nor any man 
follow the less ; because here it is not the better opinion, but 
the better conscience tbat is despised. It may happen that 
what I believe more probable, is indeed less ; and therefore 
it must be admitted to be safe to follow the less probable 
opinion, if it happen to stand on the fairest side of con- 
science, that is, that it be better thought of than it deserves ; 
but for the same reason it is also certain, that we must follow 
that which we think the more probable opinion, whether it 
be so or no ; because this is to be done, not for the opinion, 
but for conscience sake. And whereas it is said in the 
objection, that 'a doctor may lawfully teach an opinion less 
probable, if he be moved to it by the authority of some more 
eminent person,' that is as much as to say, when the opinion, 
which intrinsically, or at least in his private judgment, seems 
less probable, becomes extrinsic-ally the more probable, he 
may follow either; of which in this chapter I am yet to give 
a more particular account ; but it no way rifles the present 
doctrine. Only this I add, if it Avere lawful and safe to 
follow the less probable opinion, and reject the greater, then 
in such questions, which are only determined by authority 
and sentences of wise men, it were lawful to choose any 
thing that any one of them permits, and every probable 
doctor may rescind all the laws in Christendom, and expound 
all the precepts of the Gospel in easy senses, and change 


discipline into liberty, and confound interests, and arm rebels 
against their princes, and flocks against their shepherds and 
prelates, and set up altar against altar, and mingle all things 
sacred and profane. Because if any one says it is lawful, 
all that have a mind to do evil things, may choose him for 
their guide, and his opinion for their warranty. 

3. To the third, I answer, that the opinion which is more 
common is not always the more probable ; for it may be false 
and heretical : and if at any times it seems more probable, 
it is because men understand little or nothing of it. But 
then if it were so, yet this opinion, which is lately taught by 
the modern casuists, is not the more common, simply and 
absolutely; it was once the less common, and whether it be 
so now or no, it is hard to tell ; but admit it be so, yet the 
community and popularity of opinion is but a degree of 
extrinsical probability, and is apt to persuade only in the 
destitution of other arguments, which because they are not 
wanting in this question, the trick in the objection appears 


When two Opinions seem equally probable, the last Deter- 
mination is to be made by Accidents, Circumstances, and 
Collateral Inducements. 

IN the matter of this rule it is variously disputed ; some 
affirming that the understanding must for ever remain sus- 
pended, and the action wholly omitted, as in the case of a 
doubting conscience. Others give leave to choose either 
part, as a man please, making the will to determine the 

The first cannot be true, because while they both seem 
equally consonant to reason, it cannot be dishonest to 
choose that which to me seems reasonable ; and, therefore, 
the understanding may choose practically. They are like 
two things equally good, which alike move the will ; and 
the choosing of the one is not a refusing the other, when 
they cannot be both enjoyed : but like the taking one piece 
of gold, and letting the other that is as good alone ; and the 


action is determined by its own exercise, not by an ante- 
cedent reason. 

But neither can it be, in all cases and questions, that the 
determination can be totally omitted ; as if the question be 
whether this ought to be done, or ought to be let alone, and 
both of them seem equally probable ; so also if the question 
be, whether it may be done, or may be let alone : in these 
cases, it is certain one part must be chosen ; for the very 
suspending the act is not a suspending of the choice, the not 
doing it is a compliance with one of the probabilities. The 
lazy fellow, in the apologue, that told his father he lay in 
bed in the morning, to hear Labour and Idleness dispute 
whether it were best to rise or to lie still, though he thought 
their arguments equally probable, yet he did not suspend 
his act, but, without determining, he put the sentence of 
Idleness in execution : and so it must be in all questions of 
general inquiry concerning lawful or unlawful, necessary or 
not necessary ; the equal probability cannot infer a suspension 
or an equal nan compliance. 

But neither can the second be true ; for the will must 
not alone be admitted an arbitrator in this affair ; for besides 
that it is of dangerous consequence to choose an opinion 
because we will, it is also unnatural, the will being no in- 
gredient into the actions of understanding. The will may 
cause the understanding to apply a general proposition to a 
particular case, and produce a practical judgment by that 
general measure, without particular arguments in the question 
apportioned to the proper matter, at I before discoursed.* 
But when the understanding is wholly at dispute about the 
proper arguments of t\vo propositions, if the will interposes, 
the error that happens, if the conclusion falls on the wrong 
side, is without excuse, because it is chosen ; and the truth 
is not so safe and useful, because it came by an incompetent 
instrument, by that which was indifferent to this truth or the 
other. Indeed, if there be no other way to determine the 
question, the will must do it, because there is no avoiding 
it; but if there be any other way, this must not be taken; 
but ordinarily there is. 

The third way, therefore, is this : The determination may 
be made by any thing that can be added to either side " in 

Chap. iii. Rule 7. 


genere rationis." As the action that is prepared, stands 
more ready for my circumstances ; that which does me less 
violence, is more proportionable to any of those events, 
which in prudence are to me considerable. It is indifferent 
whether Paula Romana give her alms to the poor of 
Nicopolis, or to the poor dwelling near the monastery of 
Bethlehem ; but because these dwelt nearer, and were more 
fitted for her circumstances, this was enough to turn the 
scale and make the determination. It is like putting on that 
garment that is nearest me, not this rather than the other; 
nor yet this because I will, but this because it is here. 
The use of this rule is, to prevent a probable conscience 
to become doubtful, and yet (as much as may be) to avoid 
the interposition of the will in the practical judgments of 

This rule is to be enlarged with this addition ; That if 
the conscience, by reason of the equal probability of two 
opinions so standing without any determining and deciding 
circumstances and accidents, cannot decree on any side 
neither by intrinsical nor extrinsical means, that is, neither 
by proper arguments nor collateral inducements, no action 
ought to follow ; but the case of which the question is, if it 
can be, ought to be omitted, as in the case of a doubting 
conscience ; which, though as I shewed before, cannot 
happen when the question is general of lawful or unlawful, 
necessary or unnecessary, yet it may happen in particular 
cases, as whether this thing be lawful or that, whether this 
is to be done or the other. It may happen that neither 
of them ought, and, in the present supposition, neither of 
them can ; that is, if the man suffers his dispute to pass 
into a doubt. 

In other cases, a man may safely take any course, which 
he finds probable, equally disputed, uncertain in itself, con- 
trarily determined by doctors disputing with fair arguments. 
For in this case malice is no ingredient ; and if interest be, 
it is therefore lawful, because it is an extrinsical motive, apt 
and reasonable to be considered, and chosen, and pursued 
by fair means, if the interest itself have no foulness in it. 

But of all the external motives, that can have influence 
in the determination of a sentence between two probabilities, 
a relation to piety is the greatest. He that chooses this 


because it is most pious, chooses his opinion out of con- 
sideration, and by the inducement of the love of God. 
That which causes more honour to God, that which happily 
engages men in holy living, that which is the most charitable, 
and the most useful, that is to be preferred. But this is to 
be conducted with these cautions : 

1 . That the disposition to piety or charity be not made 
to contest an apparent truth. It is hugely charitable to 
some men, if it could be made true, to say that God is 
merciful to all sinners and at all times; and it is ten thousand 
pities to see a man made to despair upon his death-bed, upon 
the consideration of his past evil life ; but this consideration 
must not, therefore, be pretended against the indispensable 
plain necessity of a holy life, since it is plainly revealed, that 
"without the pursuing of peace with all men, and holiness, 
no man shall see God." 

2. If both the probabilities be backed and seconded by 
their proper relations to piety, to take one of them is not a 
competent way to determine the probability; but it must 
be wholly conducted by the efficacy of its proper reasons, or 
by some appendage in which one prevails above the other, 
when one opinion is valued because it is apt to make men 
fear, and not to be presumptuous ; and another, because it is 
apt to make men hope, and never to despair; the balance is 
equal, and must be turned by neither of these. Scotus and 
Durandus, Gabriel and Almain, Medina and some few 
others, taught, ' That the death of Christ did not make 
satisfaction to God for the sins of the whole world, by the 
way of perfect and exact justice, but by God's gracious 
acceptance of it, and stipulation for it.' This opinion does, 
indeed, advance the honour of God's mercy, but the contrary 
advances the dignity of Christ's suffering ; and, therefore, it 
must be disputed and determined by some other instruments 
of persuasion. God the Father is on one side, and God the 
Son on the other ; and though he who honours one, honours 
both, yet he that prefers one, may seem also to disparage 

3. The relation to piety, and the advantages which come 
to it by the opinion, must not be fantastic, and relying upon 
a weak opinion and fond persuasion, but upon true reason or 
real effects. It is a common opinion among the ancients, 


that Anna, the mother of the blessed virgin-mother of God, 
had been married to three husbands successively, and that 
the blessed virgin was the second wife of Joseph ; they who 
think that the second and third marriages are less perfect 
than the first, think it more pious to embrace the other 
opinions, viz. that Anna was married to none but Joachim, 
and that Joseph was only married to the holy Virgin Mary : 
but because this is to take measures of things which God 
hath not given us, and to reckon purities and impurities by 
their own fancies, not by reason and revelation from God, 
therefore this fantastic relation to piety is not weight enough 
to carry the question along with it. 

In other cases the rule holds : and by these measures our 
conscience can be supported in a storm, and be nourished 
and feasted every day, viz. if we take care : 

1. That we avoid every thing that we know to be a sin, 
whether it be reproached by its natural impurity and un- 
reasonableness, or, without any note of turpitude, it be 
directly restrained by a law. 

2. That we fly every appearance of evil, or likeness of 
sin. b 

3. That we fly every occasion or danger of sin. 

4. That we avoid all society or communication with sin, 
or giving countenance and maintenance to it. By these 
measures and analogies, if we limit our cases of conscience, 
we cannot be abused into danger and dishonour.- 


It is not lawful to change our practical Sentence about the 
same Object while the same Probability remains. 

A MAN may change his opinion as he sees cause, or alter 
the practice upon a new emergent reason ; but when all 
things are equal without and within, a change is not to be 
made by the man, except it be in such cases in which no 
law, or vow, or duty, or the interest of a third, is concerned ; 
that is, unless the actions be indifferent in themselves, or 

* 1 Thess. r. 22. 


innocent in their circumstances, and so not properly con- 
siderable in the fears of conscience, in which cases a man's 
liberty is not to be prejudiced. 

This stating of the rule does intimate the proper reasons 
of it, as appears in the following instances: Juan, a priest of 
Messina, having fasted upon the vespers of a holy day, 
towards the middle of the night hath a great desire to eat 
flesh ; he, dwelling by the great church, observed that the 
clocks in the neighbourhood differed half an hour : he 
watches the first clock that struck midnight : and as soon as 
it had sounded, he ate his meat, because then he concluded 
that the ecclesiastical fasting-day was expired, and that, 
therefore, it was then lawful, by the laws of his church, to 
eat flesh. But being to consecrate the blessed eucharist the 
nest morning, and obliged to a natural fast before the cele- 
bration of the holy sacrament, he changed his computation, 
and reckoned the day to begin by the later clock; so that 
the first day ended half an hour before the next day began, 
and he broke his fast because the eve was past, and yet he 
accounted that he was fasting, because the holy day was not 
begun. This was to cozen the law, and if it be translated to 
more material instances, the evil of it will be more apparent; 
but in this the unreasonableness is as visible. The like is 
the case of a gentleman living in the neighbourhood of 
Rome. Baptista Colonna happened to be in Rome on the 
three and twentieth of August, which is usually the eve of 
St. Bartholomew, but there it is kept on the twenty-fourth 
day : he refused to fast on the ordinary day of the vigils, as 
he used to do, because in Rome, where he then was, the 
custom was otherwise ; he ate his meals, and resolved to 
keep it the next day : but on the morrow, being very hungry 
and desirous of flesh, he changed his sentence, and went out 
of Rome to the neighbourhood, and kept the feast of St. 
Bartholomew without the eves. This is to elude the duty, 
and to run away from the severity, of the law, by trifling with 
the letter. 

If the case be not complicated with a law, yet it is often 
infolded with the interest of a third person, and then is not 
to be changed, but remains invariable. Msevius promised to 
Sertorius to give him a servant, either Ephodius or Taranta, 
but resolves to give him Taranta; immediately after the 


resolution, Ephodius dies, and Maevius tells his friend he is 
disobliged, because he hath but one, and resolves not to 
part with Taranta, and it was in his liberty to give him 
either, and because he will not assign his part in this, it is 
wholly lost in the other; but this is unfriendly and unjust. 
To this sort of instance is to be reduced a caution against 
fraudulence in the matter of vows. 

Vitellescus vows to fast upon the last of February : but, 
changing his mind, believes he may commute his fasting for 
alms ; he resolves to break his fast, and to give a ducat to 
the poor. But when he had new dined, he discourses the 
question again, and thinks it unlawful to commute, and that 
he is bound to pay his vow in kind ; but the fast is broken ; 
and yet if he refuses, upon this new inquest, to pay his com- 
mutation, he is a deceiver of his own soul. For in the 
present case, if to commute were not lawful, yet it is certain 
he is not disobliged ; and, therefore, he is to pay his com- 
mutation, because it was decreed in the time of a probable 
conscience ; and not being in itself unlawful, though it be 
now supposed to be insufficient, yet it is to be accounted for, 
upon the stock of the first resolution of the conscience, 
because the state of things is not entire ; and advantages 
are not to be taken against religion from the account and 
stock of our errors or delusions ; and if, after this, the 
conscience be not at rest, it is to be quieted by other actions 
of repentance and amends. 

Quest. But here also is to be inquired, whether a man 
may, to several persons, to serve distinct ends, in themselves 
lawful and honest, discourse of and persuade both the parts 
of a probability respectively ? Titius woos Orestilla for his 
wife ; she being sickly, and fearful lest she shall have no 
children, declines it; he to persuade her, tells her it is very 
likely she will, and that it will cure her indisposition. But 
the interest of Titius is to have no children, as being already 
well stored, and therefore is dissuaded, by them that have 
power over him, not to marry Orestilla. He, to answer their 
importunity, tells them, it is very likely Orestilla will be 
barren, and upon that account he marries her because she is 
sickly, and unlikely to become a mother. The question is, 
whether this be lawful ? 

I answer, 1 . If he be actually persuaded of that part of 


the probability when he urges it, and be changed into the 
other when he persuades the other, there is no question but 
it is as lawful to say both as one; for they are single affirma- 
tives or negatives, and the time is but accidental to his 
persuasion; yesterday this, and to-morrow its contrary are 
alike, while in both, or each of them, his persuasion is hearty 
and sincere. 

2. If Titius urges both parts severally, and yet remains 
actually persuaded but of one of them, he may urge them as 
probable in themselves, disputable, and of indifferent argu- 
ment and inducement, for so they are. But, 

3. He must not imprint them by the efficacy of his own 
authority and opinion, nor speak that as certain which is at 
most but probable, and to him seems false ; for so to do is 
against ingenuity and Christian sincerity ; it is to make a lie 
put on the face of truth and become a craft ; it is not honest 
nor noble, nor agreeing to the spirit of a Christian, and is a 
direct deception on one side, and an indirect prosecution of a 
lawful end. 


An Opinion relying upon very slender Probability is not to be 
followed, except in the Cases of great Necessity, or great 

THAT it is not ordinarily to be followed is therefore certain, 
because it cannot be supposed but that its contradictory 
hath greater probability ; and either he that follows this 
trifle, is light of belief, or unreasonable in his choice, or his 
reason is to him, but as eyes to an owl or bat, half-sighted 
and imperfect ; and, at the best, not fit motive to the will. 
And if it could be lawful to follow every degree of proba- 
bility, it were perfectly in any man's choice to do almost 
what he pleased, especially if he meets with an ill counsellor 
and a witty advocate. For, at this rate, all marriages may 
be dissolved, all vices excused, upon pretence of some little 
probable necessity ; and drunkenness will be entertained as 
physic, and fornication as a thing allowed by some vicious 
persons whose wit is better than their manners; and all 


books of conscience shall become patrons or * indices' of 
sins, and teach men what they pretend against, and there 
shall be no such thing as checks of conscience, because few 
men sin without some excuse, and it were no excuse unless 
it were mingled with some little probabilities ; and there 
were, in very many cases, no rule for conscience but a witty 
inventor of pretty little inducements, which rather than a 
man shall want, his enemy will supply to him out of his 
magazine of fallacies. 

But that there are some cases, in which it is to be per- 
mitted, is therefore certain, because it may be necessary in 
some circumstances to do so, and in these cases the former 
impediments cannot intervene, because the causes of neces- 
sity or great charity, occurring but seldom, destroy all power 
or pretence of an easy deception. Anna Mnrrana was mar- 
ried to her near kinsman, Thomas Grillo, but supposed him 
not to be so near. It was afterwards discovered to her, that 
the propinquity was so great, that the marriage was null and 
invalid : while this trouble was upon her, there happily comes 
a discreet old woman, who tells her, that, though it be true 
that Grille's father was supposed to have lain with her 
mother, and that herself was born of that conjunction, yet 
she herself, being private to the transaction, did put another 
woman into the place of Murrana's mother, and that her 
mother was also deceived in the same manner ; and though 
they thought they enjoyed each other, yet they were both 
cozened into more chaste embraces. Now upon this the 
question arises, whether or no Murrana may safely rely upon 
so slight a testimony as the saying of this woman, in a 
matter of so great difficulty and concernment. Here the 
case is favourable. Murrana is passionately endeared to 
Grillo, and, besides her love, hath a tender conscience, and 
if her marriage be separated, dies at both ends of the evil, 
both for the evil conjunction, and for the sad separation. 
This, therefore, is to be presumed security enough for her to 
continue in her state. 

Like to this is that of a woman in Brescia. Her husband 
had been contracted to a woman of Panormo, " per verba de 
praesenti ;" she taking her pleasure upon the sea, is, with her 
company, surprised by a Turk's man-of-war, and is reported, 
first to have been deflowered, and then killed. When the 


sorrow for this accident had boiled down, the gentleman 
marries a maid of Brescia, and lives with her some years ; 
after which she hears that his first spouse was not killed, but 
alive and in sorrow in the isle of Malta, and therefore that 
herself lived in a state of adultery, because not she, but the 
woman in Malta, was the true wife to her husband. In this 
agony of spirit, a mariner comes to her house, and secretly 
tells her, that this woman was indeed at Malta, but lately 
dead, and so the impediment was removed. The question 
now arises, whether, upon the taking away this impediment, 
it be required that the persons already engaged should 
contract anew ? That a new contract is necessary, is univer- 
sally believed, and is almost certain (as in its proper place 
will be made to appear); for the contrary opinion is affirmed 
but by a very few, and relies but upon trifling motives, 
requiring only the consent of either of the parties as sufficient 
for renewing of the contract. But this being but a slender 
probability, ought not to govern her; she must contract 
anew by the consent of her husband, as well as by her own 
act. But now the difficulty arises ; for her husband is a 
vicious man, and hates her, and is weary of her, and wishes 
her dead ; and if she discover the impediment of their 
marriage, and that it is now taken away, and, therefore, 
requires him to recontract himself, that the marriage which 
was innocently begun, may be firm in the progression, and 
legally valid, and in conscience ; she hath great reason to 
believe that he will take advantage of it, and refuse to join 
in a new contract. In this case, therefore, because it is 
necessary she should, some way or other, be relieved, it is 
lawful for her to follow that little probability of opinion 
which says, that the consent of one is sufficient for the 
renovation of the contract. And in this case, all the former 
inconveniences mentioned before do cease : and this is a 
case of favour in behalf of an innocent marriage, and in 
favour of the legitimation of children, and will prevent much 
evil to them both. So that although this case hath but few 
degrees of probability from its proper and intrinsical causes, 
yet by extrinsical and collateral appendages, it is grown 
favourable, and charitable, and reasonable : it is almost 
necessary, and, therefore, hath more than the little proba- 
bilities of its own account. 


One case more happens, in which a small probability may- 
be pursued, viz. when the understanding hath not time to 
consider deepty, and handle the question on all sides ; then 
that which first offers itself, though but mean and weak, yet 
if it be not against a stronger argument at the same time 
presented, it may suffice to determine the action ; for in 
case the determination prove to be on the wrong side, yet 
the ignorance is involuntary and unchosen. 

These rules are concerning a conscience that is probable 
by intrinsical motives, that is, by reason, whether the reason 
be direct or collateral. But because the conscience is also 
probably moved, in very many cases, by authority, which is 
an extrinsical motive, this is also to be guided and con- 


Multitude of Authors is not ever the most probable Inducement, 
nor doth it in all Cases make a safe and probable Conscience. 

FOLLOWING a multitude is sometimes like the grazing OP 
running of a herd, " Non quo eundum est, sed quo itur, 
not where men ought, but where they use to go :" and 
therefore, Justinian/ in compiling of the body of the Roman 
laws, took that which was most reasonable, not that which 
was most followed; "Sed neque ex multitudine auctorum 
quod melius et aequius est judicabile : cum possit unius 
forsan, et deterioris sententia multos et majores aliqua in 
parte superare ; The sentence of one, and of a meaner 
man, may sometimes outweigh the sayings of a multitude of 
greater persons." " Nam testibus se, non testimoniis credi- 
turum rescripsit imperator." Sometimes one witness is 
better than twenty testimonies; that is, one man, good and 
pious, prudent and disinterested, can give a surer sentence 
than many men, more crafty and less honest. And in the 
Nicene Council, 6 when the bishops were purposing to dis- 
solve the priests' marriages, Paphnutius did not follow the 

L.p. ver. Sed neque C. de veteri jure enucleanclo. 
fc Cap. Nicaena Syuodus, dist. 32. 


common vote, but gave them good reason for his single 
opinion, and they all followed him. This rule is true, and 
to be practised in the following cases: 

1. When against the common opinion, there is a strong 
or a very probable reason, then the common opinion is not 
the more probable : because a reason is an intrinsical, 
proper, and apportioned motive to the conscience, but human 
authority, or citation of consenting authors, is but an ex- 
trinsical, accidental, and presumptive inducement, and a 
mere suppletory in the destitution of reason ; and, there- 
fore, Socrates said, c "Veritatem in disputando, non ex teste 
aliquo, sed ex argumento esse ponderandam ; Truth is 
to be weighed by argument, not by testimony ;" and it is 
never otherwise, but when men are ruled by prejudice, or 
want reason to rule them in that particular. "Tantum 
opinio praejudicata poterat, ut etiam sine ratione valeret 
auctoritas," said Cicero. d And this is to be extended to 
all sorts of authors that are not canonical, or Divine. 
" Meum propositum est antiques legere, probare singula, 
retinere quae bona sunt, et a fide ecclesiae catholicae non 
recedere," said St. Jerome : " My purpose is to read the 
fathers, to try all things, to retain that only which is good, 
and never to depart from the faith of the catholic Church," 
that is, from the creeds, which all Christendom professes. 
And at another time when himself asked leave, in discourse 
with St. Austin, c< Patiaris me cum talibus errare, Suffer 
me to go along with such great men, though to an error," 
it would not be permitted, 6 but reason was chosen, and 
the authority neglected. And this course all men have fol- 
lowed when they pleased, and knew they might and ought. 

2. When the multitude of doctors are reducible to a 
single, or an inconsiderable principle and beginning. Thus 
an opinion entertained by a whole family and order of clerks, 
while they either generally do follow, or think themselves 
bound to follow the leading man in their own order, is to be 
reckoned but as a single opinion. The millenary opinion 
was driven to a head in Papias ; the condemning unbaptized 

c In Protag. Plat. 

d 1 De Nat. Deor. lib. i. c. 5. sect. 10. Heindorf, p. 10. . 

e ^ ide Liberty of Prophesying, sect. viii. Daille, du vrai Usage des Peres. 


infants, in St. Austin or St. Ambrose ; and, therefore, their 
numerous followers are not to be reckoned into the account. 
For if they that follow, consider it not, the case is evident ; 
if they do, then their reasons are to be weighed, not their 

3. When it is notorious that there is, or may be, a decep- 
tion in that number, by reason of some evil ingredient in the 
production of the opinion ; as if it be certain that the opinion 
was taken up because it serves an interest, the same men 
having been on the other side when their interest was there. 
That it is lawful to put heretics, or disagreeing persons, to 
death, is generally taught by the followers of Calvin and 
Beza where they do prevail: and yet no man that lives under 
them hath warrant to rely upon their authority in this ques- 
tion, because it is only where and when they have power, 
themselves having spoken against it in the days of their 
minority and under persecution. Under the same consider- 
ation it is, if there be any other reason against the men, not 
relating to their manners, but to their manner of entering or 
continuing in the persuasion. 

4. But when these cautions are provided for, the multi- 
tude of authors hath a presumptive authority ; that is, when 
there is no reason against the thing, nor against the men, we 
may presume upon the multitude of learned men in their 
proper faculty, that what they teach is good and innocent, 
and we may proceed to action accordingly. It can never 
make a conscience sure, but it may be innocent, because 
it is probable ; but he that relies upon authority alone, is 
governed by chance. Because, if the more be against him, 
he is prejudiced by multitude; if the fewer be against him, 
yet they may be the wisest : and whether they be or not, yet 
a tooth-drawer may sometimes speak a better reason ; and 
one may carry it against multitudes, and neither one nor the 
other can justly induce a belief, unless they have considered 
all things ; and if I can tell who hath done so, I am my- 
self as well able to answer as they ; for he that can judge 
who speaks best reason, or who is most fit to be trusted 
in the particular, must be able in himself to consider the par- 
ticulars by which that judgment is to be made ; if he can 
and does, he hath reason within him, and needs not follow 
authority alone; if he cannot, then he is governed by chance* 


and must be in the right, or in the wrong, according as it 
happens. For in many cases hoth sides have many advo- 
cates and abettors, and no man can tell who hath most, and 
each side says that their opinion is the most commonly re- 
ceived. In Venice there is a law, that any man may kill his 
father if he be banished; some affirm this also to be lawful 
where such a law is in force, and they affirm this to be the 
common opinion. Julius Clarius says that it is the common 
opinion, that though there be such a law, yet that it is un- 
lawful to do it. It is commonly affirmed that it is lawful for 
such a banished person to defend himself, and, if he can, in 
his own defence to kill the invader. It is also a common 
opinion, that this is as unlawful as for a condemned man 
to kill his executioner; because no war can be just on 
both sides. It is very commonly taught, that it is lawful 
by fraud, by surprise, by treason, to slay the banditti. It 
is also very commonly taught that this is absolutely un- 
lawful. Sometimes that which was the common opinion 
an age ago, is now rarely maintained but by a few per- 
sons. It was a common opinion in Tertullian's time, that 
the souls departed are in outer courts, expecting the reve- 
lation of the day of the Lord ; in the time of Pope Leo, 
and Venerable Bede, and after, it was a common opinion 
that they were taken into the inner courts of heaven. Some- 
times the place diversifies the opinion. In Germany and 
France, the Romanists worship the cross with a religious 
worship of the lowest kind of their own distinction ; but 
in Spain they worship it with that which they call Xargg/a, 
or the highest kind ; and this is commonly done in the 
several countries respectively. When this, or any thing like 
this, shall happen, unless by reason men be determined, they 
may draw lots for their opinion. But since the better part 
is not always the greater, it is left to me to choose which 
I will ; and it is ten to one but I call the men of my own 
communion or my own acquaintance, 'the best;' and it is 
certain I cannot judge of those with whom I do not 

For these and many other concurrent causes, the pro- 
ceeding is inartificial and casual, and fit to lead the igno- 
rant, but not the learned : arid concerning the ignorant he 
can so little skill to choose his authority, that he must 


lie under that where he dwells, and where his fortune hath 
placed him. If he goes any whither else, he hath no ex- 
cuse, because he hath no sufficient inducement ; and where 
a man cannot go alone, it is best for him to sit still where 
God's providence hath placed him, and follow the guides 
provided by the laws of his country where he was born, 
or where he lives : 


Tciffi* tfxfio^uv at xai u"{ J?/tv "xr,ai. f 

Conform yourself to the laws of the people with whom you 
must abide. 

This is the most proper way to conduct the ignorant in 
their cases of conscience, in which themselves have no skill. 
They must believe one, and if they have a better way to 
proceed, let them pursue it : if they have not, this is cer- 
tainly safe, because it is their best ; and no man is tied to 
make use of better than he hath. And if they could fall into 
error, yet it could not be imputed to them with justice, while 
* bona fide ' they fall into heresy, and are honestly betrayed. 
This only is to be added : 

They must make it as good as they can by inquiry 
(according to their circumstances, opportunities, and possi- 
bilities), and by prayers, and by innocent and honest pur- 
poses : for these only will secure our way, by means of God's 
providing. In this case there is no irregularity, because it 
is the best obedience which can be expressed by subordinate 
and weak understandings, and there is in it no danger, be- 
cause the piety and the prayers of the man will obtain God's 
blessing upon his innocent well-meaning soul. It was well 
said of Hesiod, 

Ouros vavagifras, as xuras iravra yt>r,ff-i, 
[&/>a.trftip.iv<if ra, x ivriiTci no,} 1; r'&os yew ipiiva'] 

'E<r3>.s; ecu xaxt7o;, ef lu llfovTi TiQnnti' 

"Of $i xt piriT (tiro; veiri, (t.r\r KX.OVUV 

Ev Sufty /SaXXra;, of CUIT' a.^or,ii>s sivr,a.f 

" He is the best and wisest man, who in himself knows what 
he ought to do, discerning what is best, and seeing unto 
the end of things. He also is good, who obeys the sayings 

f Clearch. f Op. et D. 291. Gaisford, Poet. Min. Grac. vol. i. p. 23. 


of wise men, that counsel well; but he is a fool, who, 
not being able to advise or determine himself, refuses to be 
conducted by others." Here only are the evils to be 
complained of. 

In some places there are a great many articles put into 
their public confessions, and a great many teachers of un- 
necessary propositions, and a great many idle and imper- 
tinent guides, who multiply questions lest themselves should 
seem useless ; and amongst men, there are many orders, 
and families, and societies, all which are desirous to advance 
themselves, and to get disciples and reputation ; and on the 
other side, there are very many that are idle, and rather 
willing to trust others, than to be troubled themselves ; and 
many choose teachers for interest, and some have men's 
persons in admiration, because of advantage ; and princes 
have designs of state, and they would have religion minister 
to them : and there are a great many ecclesiastical laws made, 
and some of these pass into dogmatical propositions, and 
they " teach for doctrines the commandments of men;" and 
there are very many sects of men, and confident fools, who 
use to over-value their trifles, and teach them for necessary 
truths, and in all this incertainty of things, men are in the 
dark, and religion is become an art of wrangling; and the 
writers of controversies are oftentimes abused themselves, 
and oftener do abuse others ; and, therefore, men are taught 
certain little rules to grope by, and walk in seas and upon 
rocks. But the things themselves are oftentimes so indif- 
ferent, and the reasons of either side so none at all, or so 
inconsiderable, that it comes to pass that the testimony of 
doctors is the guide that men choose (as they list) to follow; 
who because they teach contrary things, cannot be followed 
by their authority, and for reason, sometimes themselves 
have none, sometimes their disciples have not leisure to 
examine them, or judgment to discern them. 

Quest. Here, therefore, is to be inquired, How shall the 
ignorant and vulgar people proceed in such cases, where 
their teachers are divided ? 

1. I answer, that in most cases it is best for them to let 
them alone, and let them be divided still, and to follow them 
in those things where they do agree ; but if it be in such cases 
where they must declare or act on one side, let them take 


that which they think to be the safest, or the most pious, 
the most charitable, and the most useful ; that so by colla- 
teral considerations they may determine that, which by the 
authority seems equal and indeterminable. 

The collateral considerations are commonly these : 

1 . That which is more agreeable to the letter of Scripture. 

2. That which does most agree with the purpose and 
design of it. 

3. That which saints have practised. 

4. That which whole nations have approved. 

5. That which is agreeable to common life. 

6. That which is best for the public. 

7. That which is most for the glory of God, for the 
reputation of his name, and agreeing with his attributes. 

8. That which is more holy. 

9. That which gives least confidence to sin and sinners. 

10. That which is most charitable to others. 

11. That which will give least offence. 

12. And (in destitution of all things else) that which is 
most useful to ourselves. All these are good considerations, 
and some of them intervene in most cases, and can be con- 
sidered by most men. But where nothing of these can be 
interwoven in the sentence, but that the authority of the 
teacher is the only thing that can be considered, the following 
measures are to be added. 

2. The authority of one man wise and good, that is, 
who is generally so reputed, is a probable argument, and 
a sufficient guide to ignorant persons in doubtful matters, 
where there is no clear or known revelation to the con- 
trary. When it is his best, there is no disputing whether 
it be good or no ; only in this case, he is so far to sus- 
pend his consent, till his guide hath considered, or an- 
swered deliberately ; for if his guide vomit out answers, it 
is better to refuse it, till it be digested better. This hath 
been highly abused in some places ; and permissions have 
been given or taken to do acts of vile impiety, or horrible 
danger, where by interest they were persuaded ; and being 
desirous for some pretence to legitimate the act, or to invite 
their conscience to it, they have been content with the 
opinion of one probable doctor. Such was he, whose 


testimony being required in a matter of right concerning his 
college, swore to a thing as of his certain knowledge, of 
which he had no certain knowledge, but a probable con- 
jecture ; only because he had read or been told, that one 
doctor said it was lawful so to do. This is to suborn a 
sentence, and to betray a conscience ; for the sentence of 
one doctor is only a good or a tolerable guide, when there 
is no better guide for us, and no reason against us ; that is, 
it is to be used only when it is the best, but not when it is 
the worst. 

3. But if divers men equally wise and good speak 
variously in the question, and that the inquirer cannot be 
indifferent to both, but must resolve upon one, he is first to 
follow his parish-priest, rather than a stranger in the article, 
who is equal in all things else ; his own confessor, his own 
bishop, or the laws and customs of his own country ; 
because, next to reason, comes in place that which in order 
of things is next to it; that is, the proper advantages of the 
man, that is, learning and piety ; and next to them succeed 
the accidental advantages of the man. that is, his authority 
and legal pre-eminence. There is no other reason for these 
things, but tiiat which is in the proper and natural order of 
things : this is the natural method of persuasion, direct and 

4. Where it can certainly be told that it is the more 
common, there the community of the opinion hath the 
advantage, and is in the same circumstance still to be 
preferred ; because, where reason is not clear and mani- 
fest, there we are to go after it, where it is more justly to 
be presumed. Ta roi xaX' sv croAXo/bv xdXXiov Xeytiv, said 
Euripides ; h " It is good, when good things are attested by 
many witnesses." "o psv iraai doxiT, rovro iwaf <pafj.iv, said 
Aristotle ;' " That which seems so to all men, this we say, is 
as it seems ;" and so it is in proportion from some to many, 
from many to all. The sum of all these things is this : 
1. God is to be preferred before man. 2. Our own reason, 
before the sayings of others. 3. Many, before few. 4. A 
few, before one. 5. Our superiors, or persons in just authority 

h Hippolytus, 606. Monk, p. 77 Priestley's edition of Euripides, vol. iii. 

p. 191. 

1 Eth. lib. x. 


over us, before private persons, l cseteris paribus.' 6. Our 
own, before strangers. 7. Wise men, before the ignorant. 
8. The godly and well meaning, and well reputed, before 
men of indifferent or worse lives. That is, they must do as 
well and wisely as they can, and no man is obliged to do 
better; only this is to be observed : 

That, in this case, it is not necessary that truth should 
be found, but it is highly necessary it should be searched 
for. It may be, it cannot be hit, but it must be aimed at ; 
and therefore they who are concerned, are not to be 
troubled and amazed at the variety of opinions that are in 
the world : " There must be heresies-," that is, sects and 
differing opinions, "that they who are faithful, may be 
approved." Now they can be approved in nothing but what 
is in their power, that is, diligence to inquire, and honesty 
in consenting ; both which may very well be, and yet the 
man be mistaken in his particular sentence, in a matter not 
simply necessary, not plainly revealed. 

There is but one thing more that concerns his duty, and 
that is, that in all his choices he prefer the interest of peace 
and of obedience ; for it ought to be a very great cause that 
shall warrant his dissent from authority which is appointed 
over him. Such causes may be, but the unskilled multitude 
(of whom we now treat) seldom find those causes, and 
seldom are able to judge of them ; and therefore this rule is 

Whoever blows a trumpet, and makes a separation from 
the public, they who follow his authority, and know not, or 
understand not, a sufficient reason for the doing it, they are 
highly inexcusable upon this account, because they, fol- 
lowing the less probable authority, have no excuse for the 
matter of their sin ; and, therefore, if it happen to be 
schism, or rebellion, or disobedience, or heresy in the 
subject-matter, it is, in the very form of it, so imputed to the 
consenting person : for though great reason may be stronger 
than authority, yet no private authority is greater than the 
public. But of this I shall have further occasion to discourse 
in its proper place. 

Although this is the best, and therefore a sufficient 
advice for the ignorant, yet for the learned and the wise, 
there are other considerations to be added : 


1. They who are to teach others may not rely upon 
single testimonies, or the slight probability of one doctor's 
opinion. This is true ordinarily and regularly, because such 
persons are supposed more at leisure, more instructed, better 
able to inquire ; and to rely finally upon such single and 
weak supports, is to do the work of the Lord negligently. 

2. If the opinion be probable upon the account of a more 
general reception, and be the more common, and allowed by 
wise and good men, they who are learned, and are to teach 
others, may lawfully follow the opinion without, examining 
the reasons for which it is by those wise men entertained. 
For the work of learning and inquiry is so large, and of 
immense extension, that it is impossible all men should 
perfectly inquire of all things : but some especially attend 
to one thing, some to another: and where men have best 
considered, they consider for themselves and for others too, 
and themselves are helped by those others, in the proper 
matter of their consideration. A man's life is too short, and 
his abilities less, and, it may be, his leisure least of all, and 
unable so to consider all that is fit to be believed and taught, 
that it will be necessary we should help one another ; and 
the great teachers and doctors in several instances may 
ordinarily be relied upon without danger and inconvenience. 

3. But if it happens, that, by circumstances and accidents, 
the particular question be drawn out into a new inquiry; if 
a new doubt arise, or a scandal be feared, or the division of 
men's minds in the new inquest, then the reasons must be 
inquired into, and the authority is not sufficient. 

1. Because the authority is, by the new doubt, made less 
probable, and is part of the question : and therefore ought 
not to be presumed right in its own case. 

2. Because the duty of teachers is, by this accident, 
determined to this special inquiry, and called from their 
inactive rest, and implicit belief; because the inquirers upon 
this new account will be determined by nothing but by that 
reason that shall pretend strongest ; and therefore they who 
are thus called upon, can no otherways " give answer to 
them that ask." It was the universal doctrine of the Church 
of God for many ages, even for fourteen centuries of years, 
that episcopacy is of Divine or apostolical institution : it was 
a sufficient warranty for a parish-priest to teach that 


doctrine to his parishioners, because he found it taught every 
where, and questioned nowhere. But when afterwards this 
long prescribing truth came to be questioned, and reasons 
and Scriptures pretended and offered against it, and a 
schism likely to be commenced upon it, it is not sufficient 
then to rely upon the bare word of those excellent men, who 
are able to prove it, as it is supposed ; but they who are to 
teach others, must first be instructed themselves in the 
particular arguments of probation, that, according to the 
precepts apostolical, they may "render a reason of the hope 
that is in them," k and may be able " both to exhort and to 
convince the gainsayers;" 1 who, because they expressly 
decline the authority, and the weight of testimony, cannot 
be convinced but by reason, and the way of their own 


In following the Authority of Men, no Rule can be antecedently 
given for the Choice of the Persons, but the Choice is 
wholly to be conducted by Prudence, and according to the 

ANCIENT writers are more venerable, modern writers are 
more knowing ; they might be better witnesses, but these 
are better judges. Antiquity did teach the millenary 
opinion; that infants were to be communicated, and that 
without baptism they were damned to the flames of hell ; 
that angels are corporeal ; that the souls of saints did not 
see God before doomsday ; that sins once pardoned did 
return again upon case of relapse ; that persons baptized by 
heretics were to be rebaptized ; and they expounded Scrip- 
ture, in places innumerable, otherwise than they are at this 
day, by men of all persuasions ; and therefore no company 
of men will consent that in all cases the fathers are rather to 
be followed than their successors. They lived in the infancy 
of Christianity, and we in the elder ages ; they practised 
more and knew less, we know more and practise less ; 
passion is for younger years, and for beginning of things ; 

fclPet.iii.15. >Tit.L9. 


wisdom is by experience, and age, and progression. They 
were highly to be valued, because, in more imperfect notices, 
they had the more perfect piety ; we are highly to be 
reproved, that in better discourses we have a most imperfect 
life, and an unactive religion ; they in their cases of con- 
science, took the safest part, but the moderns have chosen 
the most probable. It was the opinion of the ancient 
divines and lawyers, that every man is bound to make 
restitution of all that which he gains by play, by cards and 
dice, and all such sports as are forbidden by human laws. 
The modern casuists, indeed, do often reprove the whole 
process, and condemn the gamesters in most circumstances ; 
but do not believe them tied to restitution, but to penance 
only. The first is the safer, and the severer way ; but the 
latter hath greater reasons, as will appear in its own place. 
All contracts of usury were generally condemned in the fore- 
going ages of the Church ; of late, not only the merchant, 
but the priest, and the friar, puts out money to increase, 
and think themselves innocent ; and although commonly it 
happens, that our ignorance and fears represent one opinion 
to be safe, when the other is more reasonable, yet, because 
men will be fearful, and very often are ignorant and idle in 
their inquiries, there will still remain this advantage to either 
side, that one is wiser, and the other, in his ignorance, is the 
more secure, because he does more than lie needs. And 
therefore it often happens, that though we call the ancient 
writers fathers, yet we use them like children, and think 
ourselves men rather than them ; which is affirmed by some, 
but in effect practised by every man when he pleases. 

But if any one shall choose the later writers, he must 
first choose his interest and his side; I mean, if he chooses 
to follow any upon their authority or reputation, without 
consideration of their reasons, then he must first choose his 
side, for he can never choose his side by the men, because 
most authors are of it themselves by interest. But because 
all probability is wholly derived from reason, every authority 
hath its degree of probability, according as it can be pre- 
sumed or known to rely upon reason. Now in this both 
the ancients and the moderns excel each other respectively. 
" The ancients were nearer to the fountains apostolical ; 
their stream was less puddled ; their thread was not fine, 


but plain and strong : they were troubled with fewer 
heresies ; they were not so wittily mistaken as we have been 
since ; they had better and more firm tradition ; they had 
passed through fewer changes, and had been blended with 
fewer interests ; they were united under one prince, and 
consequently were not forced to bend their doctrines to the 
hostile and opposite designs of fighting and crafty kings ; 
their questions were concerning the biggest articles of 
religion, and therefore such in which they could have more 
certainty arid less deception ; their piety was great, their 
devotion high and pregnant, their discipline regular and 
sincere, their lives honest, their hearts simple, their zeal was 
for souls, and the blood of the martyrs made the Church 
irriguous, and the Church was then a garden of the fairest 
flowers, it did daily germinate with blessings from heaven, 
and saints sprung up, and one saint could know more of the 
secrets of Christ's kingdom, the mysteriousness of godly 
wisdom, than a hundred disputing sophisters ; and, above 
all, the Church of Rome was then holy and orthodox, 
humble and charitable, her authority dwelt in the house of 
its birth ; that is, in the advantages of an excellent faith 
and a holy life ; to which the advantages of an accidental 
authority being added by the imperial seat, she was made 
able to do all the good she desired, and she desired all that 
she ought ; and the greatness of this advantage we can best 
judge by feeling those sad effects which have made Christen- 
dom to groan, since the pope became a temporal prince, and 
hath possessed the rights of some kings, and hath invaded 
more, and pretends to all, and is become the great fable and 
the great comet of Christendom, useless and supreme, high 
and good for nothing in respect of what he was at first, and 
still might have been, if he had severely judged the interest 
of Jesus Christ to have been his own." 

But then on the other side, the modern writers have 
considered all the arguments and reasons of the ancients; 
they can more easily add, than their fathers could find out ; 
they can retain their perfect issues, and leave the other upon 
their hands ; and what was begun in conjecture, can either 
be brought to knowledge, or remanded into the lot and 
portion of deceptions. " Omnibus enim hie locus feliciter 
ee dedit, et qui praecesserunt, non praripuisse mihi videntur 


quae dici poterant, sed aperuisse. Conditio optima ultimi 
est," said Seneca ; " They who went before us, have not 
prevented us, but opened a door, that we may enter into the 
recesses of truth ; he that comes last, hath the best advantage 
in the inquiry." " Multum egerunt qui ante nos fuerunt, 
sed non peregerunt : multum adhuc restat operis, multumque 
restabit : nee ulli nato post mille secula praecludetur occasio 
aliquid adhuc adjiciendi; a They who went before us, have 
done wisely and well in their generations, but they have not 
done all; much work remains behind, and he that lives a 
thousand ages hence, shall not complain that there are no 
hidden truths fit for him to inquire after." There are more 
worlds to conquer : 

Mult a dies variique labor mutabilis aevi 
Retulit in melius. b 

Every day brings a new light, and by hearty and wise labour 
we improve what our fathers espied, when they peeped 
through the crevices. Every art, every manufacturo,wa s 

Venimus ad sumrnum fortunas : pingimus, atque 
Psallimus, et luctanmr Achivis doctius unctis. c 

The Romans outdid the Greeks, even in things which they 
were taught in Athens, or on their hills of sport. But to 
proceed in the comparing the ages : these latter ages have 
more heresies, but the former had more dangerous ; and, 
although the primitive piety was high and exemplary, yet 
the effect of that was, that in matters of practice they were 
more to be followed, but not in questions of speculation ; 
these later ages are indeed diseased, like children that have 
the rickets, but their upper parts do swell, and their heads 
are bigger ; " sagaciores in dogmate, nequiores in fide ; " and 
if they could be abstracted from the mixtures of interest, 
and the engagement of their party, they are in many things 
better able to teach the people than the ancients ; that is, 
they are best able to guide, but not always safest to be 
followed. If all circumstances were equal, that is, if the 
later ages were united, and governed, and disinterested, there 
is no question but they are the best instructors ; there is 

a Seneca, ep. 64. Ruhkopf, vol. ii. p. 284. 

b Virg. JEn. xi. 425. Heyne. Herat. Ep. ii. 1, 32. 


certainly more certain notice of things, and better expositions 
of Scriptures now than formerly ; but because he that is to 
rely upon the authority of his guide, cannot choose by 
reasons, he can hardly tell now where to find them upon that 
account. There is more gold now than before, but it is 
more allayed in the running, or so hidden in heaps of tinsel, 
that when men are best pleased nowadays, they are most 
commonly cozened. 

If a man will take the middle ages, he may if he will, and 
that is all that can be said in it ; for there can be no reason 
for it, but much against it. " Ego vero veteres veneror, et 
tantis nominibus semper assurgo. d Verum inter externa 
cetatem esse scio, omniaque non esse apud majores meliora ; 
I, for my part, do more reverence the ancients, and use to 
rise up " and bow my head to such reverend names, as St. 
Irenseus, St. Cyprian, Origen, St. Jerome, St. Austin ; but I 
reckon age amongst things that are without, it enters not 
into the constitution of truth ; and this I know, that amongst 
these ancients, not all their sayings are the best. And on 
the other side, although antiquity is a gentle prejudice, and 
hath some authority, though no certainty or infallibility ; so 
I know that novelty is a harder prejudice, and brings along 
with it no authority, but yet it is not a certain condemnation. 

Quod 'si tarn Graiis novitas invisa fuisset 

Quara nobis, quid nunc esset vetus 1 aut quid haberet 

Quod legeret tereretque viritim publicus usus ? e 

If our fathers in religion had refused every exposition of 
Scripture that was new, we should by this time have had 
nothing old ; but in this case what Martial said of friendships, 
we may say of truths : 

Nee me, quod tibi sum novus, recuses : 
Omnes hoc veteres tui fuerunt. 
Tu tantum inspioe, qui novus paratur, 
An possit fieri vetus sodalis. f 

Refuse nothing, only because it is new. g For that which 
pretends to age now, was once in infancy ; only see if this 

d Sen. ep. 64, last words. e Herat, lib. ii. ep. 1, 90. f Martial, i. 55, 4. 
Videat lector epist. 19. Saudi Augustini ; quse est ad 1 lieron ymurn, et 
epist. ad Fortunatum. 


new thing be fit to be entertained, and kept till it be old ; 
that is, as the thing is in itself, not as it is in age, so it is to 
be valued, and so also are the men ; for in this, as in all the 
other, the subject-matter will help forward to the choice of 
a guide. 

1. The analogy of faith. 

2. The piety of a proposition. 

3. The safety of it, and its immunity from sin ; these are 
right measures to guess at an article, but these are more 
intrinsical, and sometimes so difficult, that they cannot be 
made use of but by those who can judge of reason, and 
less need to be conducted by authority. But for these other 
who are wholly to be led by the power and sentence of their 
guide, besides what hath been already advised ; 

4. The faculty and profession of men is much to be 
regarded ; as that we trust divines in matters proper to their 
cognizance, and lawyers in their faculty ; which advice is to 
be conducted by these measures : 

When the Authority of Divines is to be preferred, when that 
of Lawyers. 

1. The whole duty of a Christian consists in the laws of 
faith or religion, of sobriety, and of justice ; and it is so great 
a work, that it is no more than needs, that all the orders of 
wise and learned men should conduct and minister to it. But 
some portions of our duty are personal, and some are relative, 
some are private, and some are public ; some are limited by 
the laws of God only, and some also by the laws of men ; some 
are directed by nature, some by use and experience ; and to 
some of these portions contemplative men can give best 
assistances, and the men of the world and business can give 
best help in the other necessities. Now, because divines are 
therefore, in many degrees, separate from an active life, that 
they may with leisure attend to the conduct of things 
spiritual, and are chosen as the ministers of mercy, and the 
great reconcilers of the world, and therefore are forbidden to 
intermeddle in questions of blood ; and because the affairs 
of the world, in many instances, are so entangled, so uncon- 
ducing to the affairs of the spirit, so stubborn, that they are 
hardly to be managed by a meek person, carried on by so 
much violence, that they are not to be rescued from being 


injurious but by a violence that is greater but more just ; and 
because the interests of men are complicated and difficult, 
defended by customs, preserved in records, secured by sen- 
tences of judges, and yet admit variety by so many accidents, 
circumstances, and considerations, as will require the at- 
tendance of one whole sort of men, and, of all men in the 
world, divines are the least fit to be employed in such troubles 
and contracts, such violences and oppositions, and yet they 
are so necessary, that without them the government of the 
world would be infinitely disordered, it is requisite that these 
should be permitted to a distinct profession. In particular 
matters of justice, ordinarily and regularly, lawyers are the 
most competent judges : in matters of religion and sobriety, 
the office of divines is so wholly or principally employed, 
that it ought to be chosen for our guide. 

2. In matters of justice, which are to be conducted by 
general rules, theology is the best conductress ; and the 
lawyers' skill is but subservient and ministering. The reason 
for both is the same, because all the general measures of 
justice are the laws of God, and therefore cognizable by the 
ministers of religion ; but because these general measures, 
like a great river into little streams, are deduced into little 
rivulets and particularities by the laws and customs, by the 
sentences and agreements of men, therefore they must slip 
from the hands of the spiritual man to the prudent and 
secular. The divine can condemn all injustice, murder, incest, 
injurious dealing ; but whether all homicide be murder, all 
marriage of kindred be incest, or taking that which another 
man possesses, be injustice, must be determined by laws, and 
the learned in them ; and though divines may rule all these 
cases as well as any of the long robe, yet it is by their 
prudence and skill in law, not by the proper notices of 

3. But justice is like a knife, and hath a back and an 
edge, and there is a letter and a spirit in all laws, and justice 
itself is to be conducted with piety, and there are modalities, 
and measures, and manners of doing or suffering in human 
intercourses, and many things are just which are not neces- 
sary, and there are excesses and rigours in justice which 
are to be moderated, and there are evil and entangling 
circumstances which make several instances to justle one 


another ; and one must be served first, and another must stay 
its season ; and in paying money there is an ' ordo ad animam,' 
and justice is to be done for God's sake, and at some times, 
and in some circumstances, for charity's sake ; and the law 
compels to pay him first that requires first ; but in con- 
science, justice is oftentimes to be administered with other 
measures : so that as prudence sometimes must be called to 
counsel in the conduct of piety, so must piety oftentimes 
lead in justice, and justice itself must be sanctified by the 
word of God and prayer, and will then go on towards heaven, 
when both robes, like paranymphs attending a virgin in 
the solemnities of her marriage, helped to lead and to 
adorn her. 

4. Sometimes human laws and Divine stand face to face 
and oppose each other, not only in the direct sanction (which 
does not often happen), but very often in the execution. 
Sometimes obedience to a human law will destroy charity, 
sometimes justice is against piety, sometimes piety seems 
less consistent with religion. The Church is poor, our 
parents are necessitous, the fabrics of the houses of prayer are 
ruinous, and we are not able to make supplies to all these ; 
here what is just, and what is duty, not the law, but theology 
will determine. I owe Sempronius a small sum of money ; 
it happens that he comes to demand it when the gatherers of 
gabels are present to demand an equal sum for taxes ; here 
I am to ask my confessor, not my lawyer, whether of the 
two must be served, since I cannot pay both : and in this 
case the ministers of religion are the guards and defensatives 
of her interest : concerning which, for the present, I only 
insert this caution ; that when religion and justice are in 
contest, the ministers of religion are not always bound to 
give sentence on the side of religion, but to consider which 
is the more necessary, and where the present duty stands ; 
for sometimes it is absolutely necessary to do justice, and 
actions of particular religion must attend their season. But 
then even justice turns into religion, and when it does so, 
theology must conduct her into action. 

5. When the question concerns an interest, relative to 
either faculty, it is hard choosing the authority on either 
part, for one judges for itself, the other against his adver- 
sary ; that is, in effect they are both judges in their own 


cause. It is notorious in the Church of Rome, where the 
canonists say, that a canon lawyer is to be preferred before 
a divine in elections to bishopricks ; but you must think, the 
divines say that themselves are far the fitter. The canonists 
say that predial tithes are due by Divine right. The divines 
say they are only due by postive constitution. The secret 
of that is, because most of the divines that write books are 
monks and friars, and such which are no friends to parishes, 
that the pope may be allowed to have power to take tithes 
from the parish-priests, and give them to the monasteries ; 
which he could not do, if by Divine right they were annexed 
to their proper cures. Amongst us the tables are turned, 
and the lawyers take the friars' part, and the divines gene- 
rally aftirm the Divine right of tithes. Concerning which it 
is to be considered, that though the authority of either part 
is not of itself sufficient to determine a doubting person, and 
where interest is apparent, the person persuading loses much 
of his authority, yet the proposition itself ought not to lose 
any thing. The interest appearing is no more warrant to 
disbelieve the proposition, than it is to believe it. In this 
case there is interest on both sides, and, therefore, as to that 
the case is indifferent. The way to proceed is to consider 
the proper instruments of persuasion, and because a truth is 
not the worse for serving his ends that teaches it, I am 
to attend to his arguments without any prejudice. But if 
I am not able to judge of the reasons, but must be led by 
authority, the presumption lies for the divines : I am to 
believe them rather than the lawyers in such questions, be- 
cause there is some religion in doing so, and a relation to God, 
for whose sake it is that I choose to obey their proposition. 

6. Where, by the favour of princes or commonwealths, 
any matters of justice are reserved to ecclesiastical cognizance, 
in those affairs the authority of divines is to be preferred 
before that of lawyers, because the personal capacities of 
the men being equal in all things, the divines are exercised 
in the same matters, and, therefore, are both concerned and 
able, instructed and engaged ; and though the lawyers are 
to be supposed honest, and just, and wise, yet all that also 
is to be supposed in divines, with some advantages of reli- 
gion, and tenderness which is bred in them by their perpetual 
conversation with the things of God. But in all things he 


comes the nearest to a sure way of being guided, who does 
his best, and with greatest honesty of heart and simplicity of 
pious desires to be truly informed. It was well said of 
Socrates, "An placeant Deo, quse feci, nescio ; hoc certo 
scio, me sedulo hoc egisse ut placerent ; The things which 
I have done, whether they please God or no, I know not : 
but this I know assuredly, that I did earnestly desire, and 
diligently take care that they might please him." 

If the question be concerning other divisions of men, as 
of schoolmen and casuists, critics or preachers, the answer 
can be no other, but that in all faculties relating to any 
parts of religion, as there are very wise men, and very weak 
men, so there are some to be preferred in each faculty, if 
we could find out who they are : but this prelation is relative 
to the men, not to the faculty, if they were rightly handled. 
For the several faculties are nothing but the proper portion 
of matter assigned to the consideration of an order of men, 
in a proper method : but the great end is the same, only 
the means of persuading the same truth is different. But 
in the Church of Rome they are made several trades, and 
have distinct principles, and serve special and disunited ends 
and interests; and, therefore, which of them is to be pre- 
ferred, as to the making a probable opinion is just to be 
answered, as if we should ask which is best of feathers or 
wool; they both of them have their excellences in order to 
warmth, and yet if you offer to swallow them down, they 
will infallibly choke you. 


He that hath given Assent to one Partof a probable Opinion, 
may lawfully depose that Conscience and that Opinion upon 
Confidence of the Sentence of Another. 

THE curate of St. Martin being sent for to do his last offices 
to a dying man, finds him speechless, but yet giving signs of 
his penitence, as beating his breasts, weeping and groaning, 
holding up his hands, and looking pitifully, and in a penitent 
posture : the curate having read it disputed whether such a 
person may be absolved, concerning whose repentance he 


can have no other testimony but mute signs, which may be 
produced by other causes, and finding arguments on both 
sides, consents to the negative as probable ; and yet finding 
learned persons there who are of another opinion, lays aside 
the practices of his own opinion, and in compliance with the 
other, absolves the sick man. One that was present, and 
understood the whole process, inquires whether he did well 
or no, as supposing that to do against his own opinion is to 
do against his conscience ; and a man's own conscience " is 
more to him than ten watchmen that keep a city." 

In answer to this, it is to be considered there is a double 
consent to a proposition, the one is direct, the other a reflex ; 
the first is directly terminated upon the honesty or dishonesty 
of the object, the other upon the manner of it, and modality. 
For instance, the curate does not directly consent to that part 
of the question which he hath chosen, as that which he will 
finally rely upon, but he consents to it only as a thing that is 
probable. If he were fully persuaded of the article as a thing 
certain, or as necessary (though of itself it be not so), or if he 
thinks it is not to be altered, then to do against his opinion 
were to do against his conscience, because the opinion were 
passed the region of speculation and ineffective notion, and is 
become a rule and immediate measure of action. But because 
he believes it only probable, that is, such in which he is not 
certain, but may be deceived, and may use liberty, he may as 
well choose that part of the probability which derives from the 
reputation and abilities of other men, as that which proceeds 
from considerations of those little intrinsic arguments which 
moved his assent lightly, like a breath upon the waters, or the 
smile of an undiscerning infant. His own opinion is well 
enough concerning the honesty of the object ; but yet he that 
chooses the other part, may make an honest election ; for his 
own opinion reflecting upon itself, not going beyond the stage 
of uncertainty and probability, does openly challenge its own 
right of choosing another part : the conscience is noways 
entangled and determined, but so chooses that it may choose 
again, if she sees cause for it, a cause in the particular 
case, which she espied not in the abstracted question. 

For he may prudently suppose, that in what he is not 
certainly persuaded, another may be wiser and know more, 
and can judge surer : and if he have reason to think so, it 


may be a greater reason than that is, by which himself did 
choose his own opinion and part of the probability ; and he 
may have reason to think meanly of himself, and he may 
remember sad stories of his frequent deception, and be 
conscious of his own unaptness to pass an honest, unbiassed 
sentence, and hath no reason to trust himself in matters of 
proper interest or relation. 

This rule hath no other variety in it but that it be 
managed by these cautions. 

1. That the man upon whom we rely be neither ignorant 
nor vicious, so far as we can judge, and so far as relates to 
the present question ; that is, that he be a person fit to be a 
guide of others. 

2. That relying on others proceed not out of idleness, 
and impatience to inquire ourselves. 

3. That the opinion of the other be not chosen because it 
better serves my ends or humour, but upon the preceding 
grounds of humility and mean opinion of myself, and great 
opinion of the other. 

4. That it be only against his own probable persuasion so 
known, so considered, not against a sure conscience ; that is, 
that it be in such a matter, in which the assent is but imper- 
fect, and relying upon unsure inducements. For then he 
may as honestly trust the other's prudence as his own weak- 
ness, the other's leisure and consideration, as his own want 
of time and aptness to consider : and since the actions of 
most men in the world are conducted by the wit of others 
in very many things, and of all men in some things, it 
cannot be imprudence to take a guide to direct the con- 
science in what it is not sufficiently instructed by its own 

If the intercourse happen between the superior and the 
inferior, the liberty of changing our part of the probability is 
confirmed by a want of liberty to dissent. The subject may 
change his opinion, because he must obey wherever it is 
possible that he should ; and that is in this case : in which it 
is not only true that the opinion is probable in itself, but that 
it and its contrary be both apprehended as probably true, and 
safely practicable. For then there is no excuse to the man, 
and the conscience of the article cannot be pretended against 
the conscience of obedience ; and if it be lawful to obey, it is 


necessary to obey. " Hoc amo quod possum qualibet ire 
via;" every man loves his liberty, but this liberty does* 
engage our obedience ; we might not obey our superior if God 
had engaged us in the contrary ; but we may, when we are 
persuaded that the contrary opinion is probable, that is, con- 
formable to reason, and fit enough to guide him that is not 
finally determined in his conscience to the contrary. For if 
it could be otherwise, then there were nothing to be given to 
authority ; for in equal probabilities, it is likely, if I choose 
one part, I am determined by a little thing, by a trifle, by a 
chance, by a humour ; and if I be weighed down by never 
such a trifle, yet I am determined to the choice of one side, 
and it will be but an evil portion to authority, if it cannot be 
permitted to outweigh a humour and a chance, an ignorant 
confidence or a vain presumption ; and although it will be 
hard sometimes for a man to be convinced of the vanity of 
his argument, yet, when his opinion is not only speculatively 
but practically probable,, that is, when it is considered only 
as probable, and the contrary altogether or almost as well 
thought of, the arguments of the present persuasion are con- 
fessed to be but little, because they neither persuade nor 
abuse beyond a probability ; and therefore, in this case, to 
outface authority is without pretence, as much as it is 
without warrant. And this is affirmed by St. Austin" in the 
case of soldiers under a king, taking pay in a cause which 
either is just, or that they are not sure it is unjust. " Ergo 
vir Justus, si forte etiam sub rege, homine sacrilege, militet, 
recte potest, illo jubente, bellare, si quod sibi jubetur, vel non 
esse contra Dei praeceptum certum est, vel utrum sit, certum 
non est." 

But if the intercourse happen between a physician and a 
patient, it is made to differ. For, 1. A physician may not 
leave a certain way, and take an uncertain in the question of 
life or health. In matters of mere opinion, the very per- 
suasion and probability of assent is warrant enough for the 
man, and the effect is innocent ; but when so great an interest 
is engaged, the man becomes faster bound by the stricter ties 
of charity. It was a complaint that Pliny made of physicians 
in his time, " Discunt periculis nostris, et experientiam per 

Lib. xxii. contra .Faustum, c. 74, et babetur cap. Quid culpatur,. 23, qu. 1. 


mortes agunt, medicoque tantum occidisse impunitas summa 
est." It is hard that a physician should grow wiser at no 
cheaper rate than the deaths of many patients. Now, to do 
the thing directly is intolerable, but to do that which is not 
our best, and which is not safe, when we have by us that 
which is safe, and which we know is useful, is directly 
against charity, and justice, and prudence, and the faithful- 
ness of a good man. 

But, 2. When a physician hath no better, he may take 
that course which is probable, for that is his best ; he cannot 
be required to more, and he is excused, because he is required 
to minister. And this is yet more certain, if the sick person 
shall die without physic ; but it is a venture whether the 
medicament may prevail for his cure or no. For then all 
the hazard is on the favourable side, and if it fails, the event 
is no worse ; and it is charity to offer at a cure that is uncer- 
tainly good, but is certainly not evil. 

3. When the opinions are on both sides probable, he may 
take that which is in any sense safer, or in any degree, or by 
any means more probable, that is, for the community of the 
opinion, or the advantage it hath by the learning and repu- 
tation of them that hold it : so that he may leave his own 
opinion, which is overcome by the greater argument, or the 
greater authority of another, though both the authority be 
less than that which binds, and the argument less than that 
which is certain. 


He that inquires of several Doctors until he find one answer- 
ing according to his Mind, cannot by that Inquiry make 
his Conscience safe; but according to the Subject-matter, 
and other Circumstances, he may, 

SAINT PAUL remarks the folly of such men who " heap up 
teachers of their own," that is, such who preach what they 
desire, and declare things lawful which God never made so ; 
and he that hath entertained an opinion, and is in love with 
it, and will seek out for a kind and an indulgent nurse for it, 



cannot ordinarily be the more secure for the opinion of his 
guide, because the intrinsic motive of his assent is not his 
guide, but his own purposes and predisposing thoughts and 
resolutions ; and the getting of a learned man to say so, is 
but an artifice to quiet his spirit, and make it rest in the 
deception, if it so happens to be. This determination from 
without may, possibly, add a fantastic peace, but no moment, 
to the honesty of the persuasion or conscience ; because the 
conscience was not ready to rely upon the authority, but 
resolved to go somewhere else for an authority, if here it 
could not be had ; and therefore the conscience could not be 
made probable by the authority, because the resolution of the 
conscience was antecedent to it. 

This is true ordinarily and regularly, and there are usually 
many appendant deceptions ; as an impatient desire to have 
that true which I desire, a willingness to be deceived, a reso- 
lution to bring our ends about, a consequent using means of 
being pleased and cozened, a concealing some circumstances, 
and a false stating of the question, which is an infallible sign 
of an evil conscience, and a mind resolved \ipon the con- 
clusion, desirous of a security or sleepy quietness, and 
incurious of truth. But yet there are some cases in which 
this changing of guides and inquiries is not only innocent, 
but an instrument of a just confidence. 

1. When the inquirer hath very probable inducements 
for his opinion, and remains really unsatisfied in the answers 
and accounts of the first doctors. 

2. When he hath an indifference to any part that may 
appear true, but it falls out that nothing does seem true to 
him, but what he hath already entertained. 

3. When the assent to our proposition is determined, 
so as to avoid a real doubt or perplexity, but a scruple 
remains, that is, some little degrees of confidence are want- 
ing, which cannot be better supplied than by an extrinsical 
argument, the authority of a wise man. 

4. When the inquiring person is under a weakness and 
temptation, and wants some to apply his own notices to him, 
and to make them operative and persuasive upon his spirit ; 
as it happens to very many men always, and to all men 

5. When the case is favourable and apt for pity and relief, 


as in the dangers of despair ; then the inquirer may and 
ought to go, till he find a person that can speak comfort to 
him upon true grounds of Scripture and revelation. 

6. When the purpose of the inquirer is to be landed upon 
any virtue, and pious state of life or design, he may receive 
his encouragement and final determination from him whom 
he chooses for his opinion's sake, and conformity to his own 
pious intentions. 

The reason of these exceptions is this : Because the mat- 
ter being just, favourable, and innocent, the man goes right, 
and by being confirmed in his way, receives no detriment to 
his soul or his duty ; and because they are tendencies to duty, 
it is to be presumed that the inquirer intends honestly and 
piously : and now since the way is secure, and the person 
well intending, if the instrument of establishing this good 
course were very incompetent, it might be an imperfection in 
nature, but not in morality. 


He that is asked concerning a Case that is on either Side pro- 
bable, may answer against his own Opinion, if the contrary 
be probable and more safe, or more expedient and favourable. 

THE reason is, because he that holds an opinion which him- 
self believes only to be probable, knows also there is no 
necessity in counselling it to another, because it is not cer- 
tainly true ; and he may rather counsel the contrary to another 
than follow it himself, because himself is already determined, 
which the other is not, but is indifferent. 

But why he should rather do so than counsel his opinion, 
there is no reason in the thing, but something relating to the 
person inquiring ; as if the opinion which he maintains not, 
be more agreeable with the other circumstances and neces- 
sities. Codrus inquires if he be tied to restitution of all the 
fruits of a field, which he held in a dubious title. The curate 
thinks it to be a probable opinion, that he is bound; but 
because Codrus is poor, or apt to break the bridle of religion 
if it holds him too hard, he may counsel him according to the 
opinion of them that affirm that he is not bound to restitution. 


If he be asked what his own opinion is, he must not speak 
contrary to it : but when the question only is asked in order 
to a resolution, he may point to go that way, where, by his 
own sentence, he may be safe, and, by reason of the other's 
necessities, he may be more advantaged. The reason of 
this is, because when two opinions are equally probable, the 
scales are turned by piety, or charity, or any good thing that 
is of collateral regard, and, therefore, makes a greater 
degree of artificial probability, and is, in such cases, suffi- 
cient for determination. For in direct reason, the case is 
equal, and, in the indirect, there is great advantage on the 
side of charity, or accidental necessity, or compliance with 
any fair and just interest. Christian religion is the best- 
natured institution in the world. 

The like case it is, when the opinion of the curate is 
such, that the inquirer will probably abuse it to licentious- 
ness and evil mistake ; for then the curate may prudently 
conceal his own sentence, and borrow his brother's candle to 
light a person that is in danger. 


When the Guide of Souls is of a different Opinion from his 
Charge or Penitent, he is not bound to exact Conformity 
to his own Opinion that is but probable, but may proceed 
according to the Conscience of the Penitent. 

THAT is, supposing the opinion of the penitent to be pro- 
bable, and that he did the action ' bona fide,' and as an act 
commendable or permitted ; he is not to be troubled with 
what is past, lest that be turned into a scruple which was no 
sin, and lest the curate judge unrighteous judgment, and 
prescribe afflictions for that for which God shall never call 
him to judgment ; for in this case it is, that no man can be 
the judge of another man's conscience. 

But if the opinion of the penitent be certainly false, or 
the parent, or protector, or the occasion of a sin, the guide 
of his soul must not comply at all with it, but discover the 
error and the danger. He that kills his brother because he 
is zealous in another opinion, and thinks he does God good 


service, must not be permitted in his erring conscience and 
criminal persuasion ; for the matter hath altered the case, 
and in the relations of duty, the error is always vincible, 
and, therefore, intolerable : and, therefore, Peter Lombard's 
mother, upon her death-bed, was admonished to confess her 
sin in having three children by illegal mixtures, though she 
was foolishly persuaded it was no sin, because her sons did 
prove to be such excellent persons, and instruments of 
Divine glory. 


The Sentence and Arbitrement of a prudent and good Man, 
though it be of itself but probable, yet is more than a 
probable Warranty to Actions otherwise undeterminable. 

" SICUT vir prudens definierit," is the great measure, which 
Aristotle and all the moral philosophers assign to very 
many cases and questions. If two cases that seem equally 
probable, have in them different degrees of safety, that the 
safest is to be chosen is certain ; but oftentimes the sentence 
and opinion of a good man is the only rule by which we 
judge concerning safety. When piety and religion are in 
competition for our present attendance, sometimes piety to 
our parents is to be preferred, sometimes an action of religion 
in its own season ; but what portion of our services is to be 
allowed to the one and the other, is " sicut vir prudens 
definierit, according as a good and a prudent man shall 
determine." To bury the dead is good, to relieve the living 
poor is ordinarily better ; but yet there was a time in which 
there was a proper season for that, and not for this ; and our 
blessed Saviour commended Mary's devotion and choice in 
so doing ; but when we also may do one or the other, 
depends upon circumstances and accidents, which are not 
immediately the subject of laws, but of prudent considera- 
tion. Human laws bind the conscience of their subjects, 
but yet give place to just and charitable causes; but which 
are competent and sufficient is not expressly and minutely 
declared, but is to be defined by the moderation and pru- 
dence of a good man. That we are to be careful in the 
conduct of our temporal affairs, in paying of our debts, in 


making provisions for our children, is certain and confessed : 
but besides the general measures and limits of carefulness 
described by our blessed Saviour, our earnestness of prose- 
cution, our acts of provision and labour, are to be esteemed 
regular or irregular by the sentence of a wise and a good man. 
The significations of love to our children and nearest rela- 
tives, the measures of compliance with the fashions of the 
world, the degrees of ornament or neglect in clothing, inten- 
tion of our actions and passions, and their degrees, the use, 
and necessities, and pretences for omissions in good things, 
and generally all the accidental appendages of action, are 
determinable only this way ; and a probability is enough to 
determine us ; but that this is the way of introducing the 
probability is upon this reason; because, next to the pro- 
vision of laws, stands the man who is obedient to laws and 
understands them; and next to the reason of the law stands 
the analogy and proportion of those laws ; and, therefore, 
this is the next best to the laws, it stands nearest to reason, 
is the best guide that is left us, and, therefore, a proper 
measure of conscience in the destitution of that which is most 

There are many other rules concerning the exercise of a 
probable conscience, in the cases and questions of kings and 
priests, of advocates and judges, in matters of sacraments 
and government, which are to be referred to the place of 
their proper matter ; but this is also to be determined by the 
rules here assigned, and have no particular consideration, 
except what merely relates to the matter. 




A doubtful Conscience assents to neither Side of the Question, 
and brings no direct Obligation. 

THE conscience being, in its proper operations, positive and 
practical ; when it is neither, it is not properly and directly 


conscience ; and because it binds to obedience by its deter- 
mination and assent, and its consequent inclining the will 
when the understanding is not determined, nor the will 
inclined, there can no action follow, but a total suspension 
of action is its proper consequent. 

Upon this there is only a reflex act of conscience and 
understanding ; for by considering that our conscience is 
doubtful and indeterminable, we are obliged to suspend our 
action ; but then this is the act, not of a doubtful, but of a 
right conscience, because in this we are certain, and right, 
and determined : so that a doubtful conscience is but an 
equivocal and improper conscience ; like an unresolved will, 
or an artist with his hands bound behind him ; that is, the 
man hath a conscience, but it is then in chains and fetters, 
and he wears a hood upon his eye, and his arm in a string, 
and is only to be taught how to cut the knot, and to do some 
little things of advantage, or security to his intermedial state 
of impediment ; but a doubtful conscience can be no rule of 
human actions. 

But yet some collateral and indirect obligations are 
passed upon the man by that state of infelicity, according to 
the nature of the doubt. 

In order to which, doubts are considered, either as relat- 
ing to the law, or as relating to matters of fact, viz. whether 
such a thing be lawful or not ? or whether I did such an 
action or no, by which I am bound to restitution or 

Doubts are also negative or positive, that is, they are 
still upon us, because there is no means to determine the 
understanding; as no man can ever be resolved whether the 
number of the stars be even or odd ; when is the precise 
minute in which a man first comes to the use of reason ; and 
this is called a negative doubt. The positive enters by the 
indifference of the arguments, and their equal weight on both 
sides : as if it be doubted, whether the souls departed enjoy 
the beatific vision before the day of judgment.' whether 
residence on a benefice be an indispensable precept, or in 
what cases it obliges not ? whether ecclesiastical persons be 
bound, by justice or by charity, to give all that they can 
prudently spare to the poor? These are positive doubts, 
because there are many arguments on either side. 


The negative doubt is either metaphysical or moral, or it 
is only a suspicion ; that is, there are several degrees of such 
a doubt, for the determination of which there is no sufficient 

Lastly, sometimes a doubt is placed only in the under- 
standing, without any other effect but the trouble of thoughts ; 
and then for method's sake, and right understanding of the 
rules of practice, it is called a speculative doubt. Sometimes 
this doubt passes on to the conscience, and hath influence 
upon the action or event; so as to be an impediment to it, 
or the spoil of it, that is, so as to cause that it shall not be 
done, or, if it be done, that it becomes a sin: and this is 
called a practical doubt. 

According to these distinctions, the following rules are 
useful in order to practice. 


A negative Doubt neither binds to Action, nor Inquiry, nor 
Repentance ; but it binds only to Caution ond Observance. 

1. " THAT it binds not to action," I affirm upon the same 
ground by which the same is affirmed concerning all doubt- 
ing consciences. It binds from action ; for whatsoever is 
done with a doubting conscience (that is, without faith, or 
fulness of persuasion that it is lawful to do it), is a sin. St, 
Paul gave us the rule, " Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." a 
" Quod dubitas, ne feceris," said Cicero. 5 For if we do it 
with a doubting conscience, we do it without our rule, which 
is the dictate of our conscience ; and since no action is indif- 
ferent between lawful and unlawful (though between good 
and bad there may), to do without our rule of lawful and 
permitted is to do against it, even that which is not permitted, 
and therefore is unlawful. Add to this, 

(2.) He that does not know whether it be lawful or no, 
does that which he is not sure but it may be forbidden by 
God, and displeasing to him ; and to do that which I know 

a Rom. xiv. 23. 

b Bp. Taylor alludes, perhaps, to the following passage : " Lene praecipiunt, 
qui vetant quidquam agere, quod dubites, aequum sit, an iniquum." De Offic. i. 
c. 9. sect. 8. Heusiuger, p. 76. (J. R. P.) 


not but may grieve my friend, or trouble him, cannot consent 
with my love to him ; and, therefore, every act of a doubting 
conscience is against charity. In the question of lawful or 
unlawful, not to know it to be lawful, is to enter upon it with 
a mind willing to admit the unlawful ; it is all one to be in 
the dark, as to be without a candle or a star, and either of 
them is as bad, as full of ignorance and obscurity, as if we 
shut our eyes, or put the candle out. When, therefore, it 
happens that our conscience doubts whether such an act be 
a sin or no, a good man will be sure not to sin ; but in that 
case, and while the doubt remains, he can have no security 
but by not doing it. 

2. " It binds not to inquiry," because there is no com- 
petent means to find out a resolution ; for that is the state 
of the question, that is the definition of a negative doubt. 
Fabiola doubts whether in her childhood she did ever take 
God's name in vain ; and although she be bound to inquire 
in all the reasonable and remembered parts of her life, 
because of them she may find some records, and in that case 
the doubt is not negative ; yet of the state of childhood she 
cannot be obliged to make inquiry, because there was then 
no law, no register, no court kept, no judgment, no choice; 
that is, she cannot be obliged to an effect that is impossible, 
and to an act that is to no purpose. 

3. " It binds not to repentance : " In case she feara 
exceedingly, supposing this still to be a negative doubt, that 
is, such a one, for the proper resolution of which there are no 
competent arguments or instruments. Fabiola not knowing 
whether she did or no, and it being impossible afterwards to 
find it out, Fabiola is not tied to ask forgiveness for the 
blasphemies of her childhood : for no obligation can come 
from what is not, or cannot be, known. 

This is to be understood to be true of that sort of negative 
doubt which is called metaphysical, when there is no possi- 
bility of knowing ; as it is impossible to know what little 
pretty phantasm made us to smile when we hanged upon our 
mothers' breasts ; and the doubt is only founded upon the 
possibility that the thing might have been, though now it be 
impossible to find out whether it was or no. It is possible 
that being a child I might laugh at Scripture, or mock an 
apostle ; but if this could bring an obligation to an act of 


repentance, then the same obligation passes upon all men in 
all actions and periods of their lives, for all things, and in all 
cases in which they do not remember all, or did not observe 
every circumstance, or did not consider every minute, or 
weigh every degree. For in every thing there is a possi- 
bility, that I might have done something very ill. 

But there is a negative doubt which is called morally 
negative ; that is, when there is no way of being readily and 
clearly determined, but yet the doubt is founded upon some 
light conjecture, and no more. I was tempted, or I had an 
opportunity, or an evil thought came cross me, and I know 
my own infirmity ; and this, according to the degrees of the 
conjecture, can oblige us to a general and conditional 
repentance ; thus, if I did amiss, God of his mercy impute it 
not unto me. " I know not, my conscience does not accuse 
me," so St. Paul, " but I am not hereby justified ; God is 
greater than iny conscience." By this, set the words of 
St. John, and they will determine the case : " If our hearts 
condemn us not, then have we peace towards God ;" that is, 
the doubt in this matter ought to be laid down, if our hearts 
do not pass sentence against us ; but not so wholly but that 
we may provide against a danger not actually felt : we ought 
to be peaceful, but not too confident, when there is any 
probability of error and deception. The peace is warranted 
by St. John ; the wariness is exemplified in St. Paul. 

4. " It doth bind to caution and observance." Every 
thing does so, where either there is a danger, or any is sus- 
pected, or any is possible, or any ever was : and, therefore, 
for this there needs no peculiar reason, only according to the 
approach of the negative doubt to any degrees of its being 
positive ; that is, to a probability that it is as we doubt, the 
observance ought to be stricter, and the caution more severe, 
which happens in that imperfect kind of imperfection, in 
suspicion, which is but the image of doubting. 

For there is yet another sort of doubting, which may be 
called a privative doubt. Titius is invited to eat with one of 
another communion. First he checks at it, but because he 
knows no reason against it, nor indeed did ever dispute, or 
hear the question disputed, whether it be lawful or no, he 
goes. The question is, whether he did well or no? 

Concerning which the case is evident, that whatsoever is 


not of faith is sin, that is, if it be not done with a persuasion 
that it is lawful. But if a man be persuaded that he may 
lawfully do any thing against which he knows no law, no 
commandment, no reason ; this is not a doubting conscience, 
but a probable, and, therefore, need not to abate the action. 
But if this also turn into a doubt, the case is altered. For he 
that thinks he may not do it, or doubts whether he may or no 
do a thing for which he hath no command, or no positive 
and affirmative warrant, and that it is no sufficient reason or 
warrant for the doing it that he knows nothing against it, 
unless he also have something for it ; this man, thus per- 
suaded or abused, may not proceed to action. For in this 
case he hath nothing for it, and one great thing against it, 
even this proposition, that a thing is not to be done in such 
a case, which is the case of a privative doubt. But for the 
thing itself, the next rule gives an account of it. 

RULE lit. 

A privative Doubt cannot of itself hinder a Man from acting 
what he is moved to by an extrinsic Argument, or Induce- 
ment, that is in itself prudent or innocent. 

1. " IT cannot of itself hinder," that is, abstracting from the 
circumstance of accidental doubting or not doubting. The 
reason is, because there being no law against it by which he 
is actually ruled, and no reason appearing in defiance of it, 
that is, there being no intrinsical dissuasive, the conscience 
is only left to be conducted or persuaded by the extrinsical. 

For all actions are left indifferent, till, by a superinduced 
law, they are restrained ; which superinduced law wants its 
publication, if inculpably I have no notice of it in my con- 
science. But this is to be allowed with this caution : That 
this entering upon actions, against which we know no reason 
or law, be not sudden, and violent, and careless, like the 
rushing of a horse into a battle without consideration ; but 
that we consider according to our strength, and to our time, 
whether there be any reasons for or against the act in 
question, and if we find none, let us make none ; that is, let 


us not, by our unreasonable and impertinent doubting, place 
a snare for our own feet there, where none is placed by the 

2. If it be a matter that concerns the interest of another, 
let us always be the more wary, and remember, if there be 
nothing against it, there must be something for it either in 
the matter or in the manner, either in justice or in charity, 
or at least by the securities of the safer part, by which, if we 
find no reward, yet we are sure to find indemnity. 

This whole advice is of great use in the circumstances 
of the duty that concerns the married pairs ; in which the 
doctors of cases of conscience have spoken what they please, 
and in many things wholly by chance or fancy ; and the 
holy state of marriage ought to be rescued from many of 
their snares and intricacies by which they have troubled it, 
as will appear when I shall speak to the rules of that affair. 


In Doubts of Right, or Law, we are always bound to inquire ; 
but in Doubts of Fact not always. 

THE reason is, because ignorance of our duty is always a 
sin ; and, therefore, when we are in a perceived, discernible 
state of danger, he that refuses to inquire after his duty, 
does not desire to do it. 

In matters of fact we are bound ordinarily to inquire, 
because we must not be ignorant of the state of our con- 
sciences, and what obligation there is to restitution, or 
repentance, which the more particular it is, the more perfect 
it is. But this I say, that though ordinarily it be true that 
we are obliged, yet in some cases it may happen, that it is 
safer to trust the event of things with a general repentance, 
than that the conscience of some men be tempted with a 
particular notice of the fact. 

1. This happens in those that are weak-hearted, soft, and 
apt to every impression in too deep a regard. A Castilian 
gentleman being new recovered from the sad effects of a 
melancholy spirit, and an affrighting conscience, and being 


entertained by some that waited on him with sports and 
innocent pastimes to divert his scaring thoughts ; he with 
his company shot many arrows in a public field at rovers : 
at that time there was a man killed, whether by his arrows 
or no, he knew not, and is forbidden to inquire ; and his case 
had in it reason enough to warrant the advice. The know- 
ledge of it could riot have done him so much good, as it 
would have done him hurt ; and it was better he should be 
permitted to a doubting than to a despairing conscience, as in 
his case it was too likely to have happened. It is better to be 
suspected than to be seen. 

2. This also is so to be advised, when the inquiry into 
the doubt of fact may be prejudicial to a third person. A 
priest going to the West Indies, by misfortune wounds one 
of his company, whom, with much trouble and sorrow, he 
leaves to be cured of his hurt, but passes on to his voyage, 
which he finished at a huge distance from the place of his 
misfortune. The merchants corne the next year that way, 
arid he is unwilling to inquire concerning his sick friend ; 
desirous he was to know good of him, but infinitely fearful 
lest he be dead : consulting, therefore, with his superior in 
the case, was directed not to inquire, upon this account; 
because, if the man were dead, the priest would be irregular, 
and a whole parish unprovided for, and left without rites and 
sacraments, and public offices, which then and there could 
not easily be supplied. 

But in matters of right or duty, inquiry must be made, 
ever, when the question is of the lawfulness or unlawfulness 
of what is to be done ; because we enter upon danger, and 
despise our own safety, and are careless of our duty, and not 
zealous for God, nor yet subjects of conscience, or of the 
Spirit of God, if we do not well inquire of an action we are 
to do, whether it be good or bad. But when the act is done, 
and done with an actual persuasion that it was lawful, the 
conscience of that person is not easily to be disturbed, which 
is to be understood with these cautions : 

1. When the question was probable on either side, and, 
at the time of action, was chosen with its just measures and 
provisions; then, although the complice or partner of the 
act do change his opinion, and think himself bound to repent, 
yet he is not bound to trouble the other. Antony, a gentle- 


man of Parma, being in love with Maria de Rupe, being 
moved with great interests of his person, and a great neces- 
sity, consummates his marriage before publication, they both 
of them being persuaded that it is lawful. He afterwards 
changes his opinion, thinks it a sin, and repents and begs 
pardon ; but being also in doubt whether he ought to tell his 
wife of it, was advised to the contrary," upon this, amongst 
many other concurrent reasons, because what was innocently 
done, cannot be condemned in that in which it was innocent ; 
for the man himself ought to be sorrowful for his being 
deceived (if he thinks he was), but he cannot be tied to 
repent of the act, which, supposing his then present per- 
suasion, was lawful, because done according to a probable 
conscience : and, therefore, much less ought he to disturb 
the peace of his wife, whose persuasion remains the same as 
at first. What was not a sin at first, cannot, in that indivi- 
dual act, become a sin afterwards. 

2. This is also to be understood, when the act leaves no 
evil effect, or hath done no hurt to a third person ; but if it 
do, then my peace is not to be bought at the expense of 
another's evil. No man is to be made better, or left so, by 
another's detriment ; and, therefore, if a child were begotten 
in that unripe and hasty consummation, and that child 
should be declared bastard, then the peace is to be disturbed, 
and the inquiry on all hands to be curious and busy, because 
in all such cases there is something of duty for the future 
concerned in it ; sometimes restitution, but always repentance 
in particular. 

3. This is also true when the fact that is past, is not 
introductive of more and new instances ; for if it was the 
wrong side of the probability which was chosen, and the 
same kind of action is to return often, there the conscience, 
though heartily persuaded, must be awakened from its 
security by him that believes it to be a sin that was done, 
and then the interested party must inquire : the reason of 
this is, because this concerns the future, and all the world, 
when they enter upon action, must inquire anew, when they 
have reason to doubt anew, and they may be called upon, 
and must be better informed by them that can and are 
concerned. For the honour of God and the interest of his 
service is in this case concerned, which in the other is not, 


when it only relates to a single and a past action, which was 
then lawful, and, therefore, will not afterwards be imputed. 

4. When the person interested does of himself doubt, 
whether the past act was lawful or not, and desires to be 
satisfied, and that there will be no evil effect in the alteration 
of his persuasion, then it is fit he be complied with in that 
which he judges to be for the interest of his soul, for this is 
certainly the better ; the other way of concealing and not 
inquiring being only permitted in some cases, and with so 
many cautions and reservations as are before expressed. 


In Doubts, the safer Part is to be chosen. 

WHEN the conscience is doubtful, neither part can be chosen 
till the doubt be laid down ; but to choose the safer part is 
an extrinsical means instrumental to the deposition of the 
doubt, and changing the conscience from doubtful to pro- 
bable. This rule, therefore, does properly belong to the 
probable conscience ; for that the conscience is positively 
doubtful is but accidental to the question and appendant to 
the person. For the reasons on either side make the con- 
science probable unless fear, or some other accident, make 
the man not able to rest on either side. For in matters of 
conscience, it is as hard to find a case so equally probable 
that a man shall find nothing without or within to determine 
him, as it is to find that which the philosophers call ' tempera- 
mentum ad pondus, a constitution so equal that no part 
shall excel the other.' For if there were nothing in the 
things to distinguish them, yet in the man there is a natural 
propensity, which will make him love one sort of arguments 
more than another. What can be more indifferent than to 
see two dogs fight ? and yet no man sees their cruelty, but he 
wishes better to one than to another : and although no 
opinions are so very even, yet if they were, the man hath an 
acquisite, or else a natural bias, or something of contingency 
that will determine him : and if the conscience remains un- 
determined, so that he may not, or dare not, venture upon 


either part, it is certainly a disease or a direct infirmity. 
And because such persons can do nothing at all, till their 
doubtful is changed into a probable conscience, this discourse 
must relate to that conscience that is probable, though, 
in compliance with the usual ways of speaking, I have placed 
it here. 

1. The rule, therefore, is to be understood to be good 
advice, but not necessary in all cases. For when the con- 
trary opinion is the more probable, and this the more safe, 
to do this is a prudent compliance, either with a timorous or 
with an ignorant conscience : it is always an effect of piety, 
and a strong will to do good, but very often an effect of a 
weak understanding : that is, such a one which is inclined 
to scruple, and dares not trust the truth of his proposition, or 
God with his soul in the pursuance of it. And, indeed, 
sometimes there is in this some little suspicion of the event 
of things, which must needs reflect upon the goodness of 
God, under whom we fancy we cannot be so safe by pursuing 
that rule and guide that he hath given us, that is, the best 
reason, and the fairest inducement, as we may be by relying 
upon the sureness of the matter. Indeed, we ourselves are so 
wholly immerged in matter that we are conducted by it, and 
its relations, in very many things : but we may as well rely 
upon formalities and spiritual securities (if we understood 
them) as upon the material ; and it is as safe to rely upon 
the surer side of reason as upon the surer side of the thing. 
Now that which is the more probable, hath the same advan- 
tage in constituting a conscience formally safe as the other 
less probable, but surer side, hath for the making the con- 
science safe materially. 

2. If the conscience be probable, and so evenly weighed 
that the determination on either side is difficult, then the 
safer side is ordinarily to be chosen, because that helps to 
outweigh and determine the scale ; that is, when reason and 
the proper motives of the question are not sufficient to deter- 
mine it, let auxiliaries be taken from without ; and if the 
conscience be made not securer by its rule, let it be made 
safe by the material. It is just as the building of a house. 
If the architect be not wise and knowing how to secure the 
fabric by rules of art, and advantages of complication, and 
the contexture of parts, let him support it with pillars great 


and massy ; for if the other be wanting, these will sustain 
the roof sure enough, but with some rudeness in the thing, 
and imperfection in the whole. 

3. If to that which is the surer side, there be a great 
inconvenience consequent, the avoiding of that inconve- 
nience, being laid on the opposite even part, will outweigh 
the consideration of the safety. Quintus Milo commands 
his servant, Aufidius, whom he had taken for the teaching 
grammar and rhetoric to his children, that he would learn 
the trade of a shoemaker. Aufidius doubts whether his 
master, Quintus Milo, hath power to command him to do 
that which was no part of the employment for which he was 
entertained, and yet because the thing is of itself lawful and 
honest, he considers it is the safest course for him to obey, 
for, certainly, in so doing he sins not ; and thus far he is 
bound, and was in the right. But if to learn that mean 
trade will dishonour and disable him, make him a fool and 
contemptible, and ruin his hopes and his interests when he 
leaves the service of Milo, the servant is not tied to follow 
that which is more safe, but that which is more charitable 
and prudent: "In dubiis juris tutior pars sequenda est, et 
obedire terieor, si commode possim," was the rule : because 
the reason, abstractedly considered, makes the question safe 
on either side, as the determination happens ; and the avoid- 
ing an intolerable inconvenience is as considerable as the 
accidental security, and in many cases more complying with 
charity : because in a question, in which the conscience is 
probable, there is a great safety without taking in the ad- 
vantage of a safe matter, by the proper efficacy and influence 
of the reason making a probable and an honest conscience ; 
but then when the safety is provided for fairly otherways, 
and for the most part sufficiently, and the inconvenience on 
the other side is not provided for; in all such cases we must 
leave that which is materially sure, for the choice of that 
which, in its formality, is equally sure, and, in its matter, 
more charitable. A little child came to my door for alms, 
of whom I was told he was run from his mother's house, 
and his own honest employment; but in his wandering he 
was almost starved : I found that, if I relieved him, he would 
return to his mother; if I did not relieve him, he would not 
be able. I considered, that indeed his soul's interest were 



more to be regarded and secured than his body, and his sin 
rather to be prevented than his sickness, and, therefore, not 
to relieve him seemed at first the greater charity. But when 
I weighed against these considerations, that his sin is un- 
certain, and future, and arbitrary, but his need is certain, 
and present, and natural ; that he may choose whether he 
will sin or no, but cannot, in the present case, choose 
whether he will perish or no; that if he be not relieved, he 
dies in his sin, but many things may intervene to reform his 
vicious inclination ; that the natural necessity is extreme, 
but that he will sin is no way necessary, and hath in it no 
degrees of unavoidable necessity ; and above all, that if he 
abuses my relief to evil purposes, which I intended not, it is 
his fault, not mine, but the question being concerning my 
duty, not his, and that to relieve him is my duty, and not 
his, and that, therefore, if I do not relieve him, the sin is also 
mine, and not his ; and that, by bidding of him to do his 
duty, I acquit myself on one side, but by bidding him to be 
warm and fed, I cannot be acquitted on the other; I took 
that side which was at least equally sure, and certainly more 

This also happens in the matter of justice very often. 
It is the surer side in many cases to restore, and is a testi- 
mony of an honest mind, that, to secure its eternal interest, 
will quit the temporal. But if to restore will undo a man, 
and the case is indifferent, or at least probable that he is not 
bound, then it is not necessary to restore, though to restore 
be the surer side ; and if the interest of a third person, as of 
wife, or children, be also involved in the question, then the 
inquiring .person is bound not to restore. Because in the 
present case there is a certain uncharitableness, and but an 
uncertain justice, that is, a duty certainly omitted, for the 
securing of another that is not certain. 

4. When the more probable is also the more safe, there 
is no question but the safer is to be chosen. For so the 
conscience is made the more sure, both materially and 
formally ; that is, by the better reason, and the more ad- 
vantageous matter; and he that does otherwise, exposes 
himself to an evident danger of sinning, having nothing to 
outbalance either the direct reason, or the accidental safety. 

5. Sometimes it happens, that what is safe in one regard 


is dangerous in another, and on each side of the probability 
there is a danger and a safety. Vittoria Columbina, a 
Venetian lady, was married to five magnificoes successively : 
and they all being dead, and she left very rich, young, and 
tempted to a sixth marriage, advises with her confessor 
whether or no she may lawfully do it? He tells her, that it 
is not only probable, but certain that she may ; but it were 
better if she kept her widowhood, and after so much sense of 
mortality, retire to religion. But that he may determine her 
case with more certainty, she tells him, she had once resolved 
with herself to live a widow, but finds she shall not be free 
from temptation in that state, and desires him to tell her if 
she may lawfully marry notwithstanding that resolution, 
which now to be something altered, he perceives by her 
question. He answers, that it is the surest course to deter- 
mine for chastity and abstinence, her state of widowhood 
being more certainly pleasing than the other. But then she 
hints her temptation, arid asks, if some sure course is not to 
be taken for her being secured in that point too? This 
arrests his thoughts upon a new consideration, but the result 
is this: 

1. When there are two securities to be provided for, 
one of the thing, and the other of the person, that of 
the person is first to be provided for. It is the safer 
part of the question to determine on the side of chastity, 
or virginity, or widowhood ; but this may be the unsafer 
side to the person, who, if he suffers temptation, is to be 
provided for by that answer which gives him remedy and 

2. But if it happens that there is danger on either side to 
the person, that is the surer side which provides against that 
temptation which is strongest and most imminent, and which, 
if it prevails, is of the worst consequence. 

3. This is also to be understood in those cases when 
temporal life is offered in question against the danger of 
a sin. Michael Verinus, a young gentleman of Spain, by 
reason of his living a single life, was pressed with so great 
inconvenience, that he fell into a lingering and dangerous 
sickness. The physicians advise him to use his remedy, 
though he be not married, and being it was in order to his 
health, which was not else to be recovered, they presumed it 


lawful, or did not care whether it were or no ; but, however, 
they advise him to it. He doubts of it, and dares not be 
uncharitable and die for want of remedy, if he might have it, 
and yet dares not commit an act of uncleanness : but finding 
on either hand a sin threatening him, and if he flies from a 
lion, he meets a bear, or is told that a bear is in the way, 
he at last flies from the evil beast that stood before him, and 
chooses that way which was evidently the safest, not to his 
health, but to his salvation ; not to his body, but his soul ; 
and chose rather to die, than to do that which he was 
certainly persuaded to be a sin, and of the other he was not 
so sure. 

Sola Venus potuit lento succurrere morbo : 
Ne se pollueret, maluit file mori. 

In other things, the prudence of a guide must be his 
only rule. 

The sum is this : 

1. If the doubt be equal and the danger equal, the doubt 
must be laid aside, or there can be no action consequent : 
and for the danger, if you choose one, you may choose 
either, for there is no difference : a dagger or a sword is 
all one to him that must die by one. 

2. If the doubt be unequal and the danger equal, the 
resolution must be on that side where there is the most con- 
fidence ; that is, where the less cause of doubting is appre- 
hended, as if I have but enough to give one alms, and I see 
two ready to perish, and I can relieve but one ; the danger 
is equal, for " pasce fame morientem ; si non pavisti, occi- 
disti," said St. Ambrose ; but one is my friend, and the 
other is a stranger ; in this case the doubt is unequal, and I 
ought to prefer my friend. 

3. If the danger be unequal, and the doubt equal, the 
resolution must be made in compliance with our safety. 
For there is nothing to weigh down in the doubt, yet 
there is something to weigh down in the danger, and that 
is sufficient. 

4. If the doubt be unequal, and the danger unequal, 
there we must take the least danger, though on the least 
side of the probability, because there can no degree of sin 
be consented to ; and, therefore, when by our own fault or 
infelicity we must be forced to fall upon one, we must take 


the less, by the same reason for which we are to refuse all 
that we can. MseviusCaligarius, a Roman gentleman, and 
newly converted to Christianity, observes that his friend 
Agricola was pursued by his enemies unto death, and was 
by them asked concerning him, whether he were in his house 
or no. He knew he was, but knows also that if he con- 
fesses it, he shall die. He doubts whether it be lawful to lie 
to save his friend's life or no, and cannot resolve whether it 
be or no, but inclines rather to think it is not lawful. But 
he considers if it be lawful, then he is guilty of his friend's 
death, who refused to save him at an innocent charge. But 
if it be not lawful, he does but tell an officious lie ; so long as 
the doubt remains, he must rather venture upon an uncertain 
sin in the officious lie, than the uncertain but greater sin 
of homicide. These are the cases in which the danger is on 
both sides. 

5. But if there be danger on one side only, and a doubt 
on both sides, there is no question but that side is to be 
chosen where there is no danger ; unless the doubt on one 
side be contemptible and inconsiderable, and the other not so. 


It is lawful for the Conscience to proceed to Action against a 
Doubt that is merely speculative. 

IN a sure conscience the speculative and the practical are 
the same in certain consequence, as I have already 11 proved 
in its own place; but in a doubting conscience the case is 
differing. For though it be ordinarily true here also, that he 
that doubts speculatively does also doubt practically ; as if 
he doubts concerning all usurious contracts, whether it be 
lawful or no to use any, he doubts all concerning this which 
himself uses, if it be usurious. But because there may 
intervene a special case, and that which is true in general 
may be altered in the particular, it may happen that he may 

be certain and determined in the particular when he is not 


* Chap. ii. rule 3. ' 


so in the general ; that is, when the case is special, by privi- 
lege, or exemption, or the ceasing of the reason, or by any 
other special case he may think himself acquitted, when yet 
the action is culpable in its whole kind. 

But by a speculative doubt sometimes is meant not the 
general, but the question abstracted from circumstances ; and 
in this it sometimes happens, that though the conscience 
doubt concerning the question, yet it does not doubt con- 
cerning the practice. Titius is possessed of a field on which 
he entered by inheritance, and wholly without fraud and 
violence : but yet upon some supervening notices, he after- 
wards doubts whether the field be his own by a just title; 
but because he is informed by his confessor and others on 
whom he does and may rely, that possession is a collateral 
title, and that what he so possesses he may still dwell upon, 
till it be certain that it is not his own ; he rests at quiet in his 
mind, because possession is stronger than his doubt, though 
it cannot prevail against demonstration. 

Mary of Rheims, the wife of a soldier, is told by his 
captain that her husband was killed at thfe battle of Pavia ; 
after her year of mourning was expired she marries again 
to a citizen of Rheims, and cohabits with him two years : 
after which she is told that her first husband escaped to 
Tarentum, and there lives in obscurity. Upon this she 
doubts whether the citizen be 'really her husband or no; 
yet living with him, he demands her to pay her conjugal 
duty : she inquires whether during this doubt she may or 
no, and is answered affirmatively upon the same grounds : 
the citizen is in possession of the marriage, and this is not 
to be disturbed by a doubt, but by a certainty, especially 
since the doubt is but a speculative doubt, not a practical. 
For it is no good argument to say, I doubt whether this man 
be my husband or no, therefore if I consent to him, I commit 
adultery ; for the presumption lying upon the possessor, 
though his title be dubious, yet his possession is not, and 
either of them both are to have a portion in the effect, and 
therefore the certain possession in a dubious title is to be 
preferred before a dubious title without possession, and 
therefore this kind of doubt ought not to hinder the effect 
of the present duty. For in this case it is not true ; the 
antecedent is doubtful, therefore so is the consequent. For 


as out of falsehood truth may come, so out of doubts may 
come certainty. I see, a great way off, Father Grimaldi 
moving his lips ; I suppose he is disputing, whom yet I was 
told not to be alive. I argue thus : ' He disputes, therefore 
he is not dead.' The consequent is certain, but the ante- 
cedent doubtful ; so it is in the present case. I doubt 
whether this woman be and ought to be my wife, but 
because she is legally so, and so reputed and in possession, 
I do infer that therefore I must pay my duty to her, till 
it be certain that she is not my wife. For though I doubt 
of the person whether or no she be my wife, yet I am cer- 
tain, or I may be certain of this, that he that approaches to 
her who is in possession of marriage, may do it lawfully; 
he only does fornicate who approaches to her, of whom 
I am certain that she is not my wife. But if of this pro- 
position also I doubt, the doubt is practical, and I may 
not do it, till by some means the doubt be resolved or laid 
aside. But so long as it is a question speculative, the action 
may be determinate and lawful, and introduced upon many 

For the fuller manifestation of which secret, because it is 
of great concernment, and hath influence upon the con- 
science in many great actions and intercourse of human 
society, it is remarkable that we cannot argue thus; this 
man is not * bonae fidei possessor,' a possessor by a just 
faith, therefore he possesses it ' mala fide,' by an unjust: so 
neither does this follow, this man possesses it not with an 
evil faith, therefore he posses es it with a good faith. It does 
neither way follow negatively. But this consequence is 
good ; he is a possessor by a good faith, therefore he does 
not possess it by an evil. Or, he is a possessor by an evil 
faith, therefore he does not possess it by a good ; it follows 
either way affirmatively. The reason of the difference is this; 
if it be good, it cannot be bad, and if it be bad, it cannot 
be good ; if it be one, it cannot be the other ; but it may 
happen that it may be neither good nor bad, for there is a 
medium or a third between good and bad faith or honesty of 
possession ; and this consists in a speculative doubt, by which 
the possessor doubts whether that which is in his hands be 
in his right, or belongs to him or to another; and that he 


who so doubts, hath neither good nor bad faith, is expressed 
by the gloss. 6 

The consequent of which is this, that because that he 
who so doubts, is not " bonse fidei possessor," therefore he 
cannot from thence begin to prescribe or to acquire a just 
title, because of the rule of the law, " Quod ab initio non 
valuit, progressu temporis valere non debet ;" and it cannot 
by time get strength to walk, which enters into the world 
without feet ; now the doubting conscience is but a larne 
supporter. But yet because such a conscience, which only 
hath this speculative doubt, is not " malae fidei possessor," 
therefore he may lawfully still retain the possession, till the 
contrary be evicted. 

There is this only to be added, that although prescription 
or other ways of just title cannot begin with a doubting con- 
science, yet if it entered with a thoroughly persuaded con- 
science, it may go on, though it be disquieted by a supervening 
doubt. The reason is, because it having lawful parents of its 
birth and first production, cannot be killed and destroyed 
by a suit at law ; it began well, and therefore had just prin- 
ciples of its progression ; and whatsoever hath the first ad- 
vantage of just and reasonable, is always to be so presumed 
till the contrary be proved ; a doubt, therefore, may make 
the man unquiet, and tie him to inquire, but cannot interrupt 
the possession or the beginning and growing title. Besides 
the reason, this sentence is confirmed by the concurring tes- 
timonies of Bartolus, Imola, Sylvester, Felinus, Balbus, and 
Johannes Hannibal, under their titles, " de Praescriptionibus 
et Usucaptionibus." 

There are some accidental hardnesses to the conscience 
which are innocent, and because, besides the even measures 
of good and evil by lawful and unlawful, there are some 
paths chalked out to us by necessities, by conveniences, by 
presumptions, by securities, and other indefinite aims at 
things, which can sometimes weigh down the best of our 
imperfect conjectures in some obscure cases, we may as well 
walk by the light of the stars, and better too, than to walk 
quite in the dark : and not only the sun is appointed to 

b In lib. i. C. de acq. poss. gl. in lib. ii. ff. pro solut. et gl. in lib. iii. sect, 
generaliter S. de acq. poss. 


rule the day, but there are the moon and the stars to govern 
the night : plain and easy rules make a sure conscience, but 
the doubtful and the dark must be content with a less light. 

For, unlearned men are oftentimes beset with the argu- 
ments of a talking man, which they cannot answer, but create 
a speculative doubt, and such as destroys all the certainty 
of evidence which they had ; but if they should not stick to 
their own conclusion in despite of all the objections, by a 
certainty of adhesion, they might be disturbed in every 
thing, and confident in nothing, and might, if they met with 
a heretic, be fooled out of their religion, and quit the most 
material parts of their belief. And even the learned have, in 
many articles, a presumptive assent to their propositions ; 
and if they be made to doubt in their understanding by the 
opposition of an adversary, they are not instantly to change 
their practice, but to inquire further. For if after every such 
doubting, their practice must be insecure or criminal, they 
might be forced to a lightness greater than that of Egyptian 
priests : and some men can believe well and dispute ill, but 
yet their faith must not change at the argument of every 
sophister. In these cases the practice is made secure by a 
collateral light, and he is defended from change by repu- 
tation and custom, by fear of scandal and the tie of laws, 
and by many other indirect instruments of determination, 
which although they cannot outwit the contrary arguments, 
yet they ought to outweigh the doubt, and guide the will, and 
rule the conscience in such cases. 

There is nothing but a weak man may doubt of; but if 
he be well, he must not change his foot, till it be made cer- 
tain to him. that he is deceived ; let him consider what he 
please, and determine at leisure ; let him be swift to hear, 
but slow to speak, and slower yet in declaring, by his action 
and changed course, that his doubt hath prevailed upon him. 
I knew a scholar once, who was a man of a quick apprehen- 
sion, and easy to receive an objection ; who, when he read 
the Roman doctors, was very much of their opinion, and as 
much against them when he read their adversaries, but kept 
himself to the religion of his country, concerning which at 
all times he remembered that there were rare arguments and 
answers respectively, though he could not then think upon 
them. There are temptations of faith and opinion, and they 


are to be resisted sometimes by indirect ways of proceeding, 
and artifices of the spirit ; and sometimes men in sickness 
are afflicted with doubting and trembling consciences, bu^ 
yet are supported only with general remembrances ; they 
consider that there are comforts, and excellent promises, and 
instruments of hope, and wise and holy sayings by which 
they were nursed up to that height of strength, that they 
are now able to fight in the dark : if the speculative doubting 
conscience should always prevail in practice, the ignorant 
might be abused and miserable in all things, and the learned 
in most. 


Every Dictate and Judgment of the Conscience, though it be 
little and less material, is sufficient, and may be made use 
of for the Deposition of a Doubt. 

EVERY little reason is not sufficient to guide the will, or to 
make an honest or a probable conscience, as I have proved 
in the foregoing chapter ; a but in a doubting conscience, 
that is, where there are seemingly great reasons of either 
side, and the conscience not able to determine between 
them, but hangs like a needle between two loadstones, and 
can go to neither, because it equally inclines to both ; there 
it is, that any little dictate, that can come on one side and 
turn the scale, is to be admitted to counsel and to action ; 
for a doubt is a disease in conscience, like an irresolution in 
action, and is therefore to be removed at any just rate, and 
any excuse taken rather than have it permitted. For even 
to wash in Jordan may cure a leprosy, and a glass of wine 
may ease the infirmities of the stomach ; and he is too cere- 
monious in the matter of life and death that stands upon 
punctilios with nature, and will not be cured but by rich 
medicines. For in a doubting conscience the immediate 
cure is not to choose right, that is the remedy in an erring 
conscience ; but when the disease or evil is doubting or sus- 
pension, the remedy is determination ; and to effect this, 
whatsoever is sufficient may be chosen and used. 

Rule rii. 


Every conscience that proceeds probably, proceeds ho- 
nestly, unless by a greater probability it be engaged against 
the less: now to make a conscience that is probable, yet even 
more probable, a little advantage is sufficient ; which is to 
be understood with these cautions : 

1 . When the doubt is equal and the danger alike on 
either side, then a smaller superfetation of argument will 
do the work, that is, cure the doubting ; for though a little 
argument is not alone a ground for the action of a wise 
man, yet a little overplus of reason will take off this calamity 
of irresolution and trepidation ; it is not enough to outweigh 
any danger, but it can, with the portion of the equal mea- 
sures which stand on its own side, by its little weight cast 
the balance. 

2. This is not so easily to be admitted when the judg- 
ment of the man is discernibly and perceivably little and 
not to be trusted, for then the superaddition that is made by 
him to any part of the doubt, may be as wholly inconsider- 
able as the doubt itself is troublesome; and though this may 
make the doubt to be laid aside, as it will also determine 
such a man in the whole traverse of the question, yet it is 
the worst remedy of the doubt, and an insufficient intro- 
duction of the probability. In this case the doubt is to be 
laid aside by the advice and authority of some person fit to 
lead him, rather than by the confidence of his own little 
superadded impertinence. For indeed it is not good to 
have the sacredness of a conscience governed by weakness 
and contingency. 

3. When the doubting person is inconstant, let him not 
speedily act what he lightly determines by the sudden inter- 
vening humour; for he that changes quickly, judges lightly, 
but fancies strongly, and acts passionately, and repents 
speedily and often ; therefore let such a man when he per- 
ceives his own infirmity stop at the gates of action, lest the 
laying down one doubt multiply many, and he become more 
miserable in his remedy than in his sickness. 

In pursuance of this rule it is to be taken care of, that 
fear be not mistaken for doubt; for there is oftentimes a 
doubt nowhere but in the will, and the more slender and 
weak the judgment is, oftentimes the fear is greater; and 
sometimes they fear because they fear, and not because they 


have reason ; when, therefore, the doubt does not rely upon 
such a reason as can be formed into an argument and dis- 
course, but is an unreasonable trouble, and an infinite 
nothing; the doubt -ought directly to be laid aside, for it is no 
way considerable, but only that it is a considerable trouble. 


When two Precepts contrary to each other meet together about 
the same Question, that is to be preferred which binds 

THIS rule we learn from the eighth Council of Toledo; 8 " Ubi 
periculi necessitas compulerit, id deberaus resolvere, quod 
minori nexu noscitur obligari. Quid autein ex his levius, 
quidve sit gravius, pietatis acumine investigernus." The 
council instances in the keeping wicked oaths and promises; 
where though the instance be mistaken, and that in the 
matter of wicked promises the case is not perplexed, and it 
is no sin to break them, but a sin to keep them ; yet upon 
supposition that the conscience is doubtful whether it be 
lawful to break them, and whether it be lawful to keep them, 
and fears a sin on either side, the council hath given a right 
answer; the evil that is least is to be chosen. " Etenim dum 
perjurare compellimur, creatorem quidem offendimus, sed nos 
tantummodo maculamus. Cum vero noxia promissa com- 
plemus, et Dei jussa superbe contemnimus, et proximis impia 
crudelitale nocemus, et nos ipsos crudeliori gladio trucida- 
mus; He that having sworn to do an evil turn, breaks 
his oath, offends God by putting his name to a lie and a 
villany, and he pollutes his own soul : but he that keeps his 
oath when he hath so sworn, despises the commandments of 
God, and hurts his neighbour with an impious cruelty, and 
destroys himself with a worse." On this side, therefore, 
there being the more and worse evils than on the other, 
we must decline furthest from this. For if all evil is to be 
avoided, then all degrees of evil are ; and .when we cannot 

avoid as much as we should, we must avoid as much as we 

* Concil. Tolet. riii. can. 2. temp. Martini P. 


can. We must choose none directly, but when we are forced 
upon some by our own infelicity or fault ; it is the best 
remedy for the gangrene that we lose our arm or leg : and he 
that is in the fatal necessity, no otherwise can be permitted 
to choose a sin, than he is supposed to be desirous to be 
cut of the stone, when upon any terms he resolves he never 
will or can endure the torments of the disease. The great 
reason of this rule is that which was given by Aristotle, 6 'Ev 
ayadoZ yao hoyy yivtrcu rb tXarrov xaxbv Kgb$ rb fttf^ov xaxov' effrl 
ya.o rb sXarrov xaxbv paXXbv a'igsrbv rou f^fi^ovog' rb ds aigirbv, ayaSov, 
xai rb /a-aXXoK fisT'^ov "The less evil in respect of the greater 
evil is to be accounted good ; because the less evil is rather 
to be chosen than the greater ; and what is in any sense 
eligible, is in some sense good, and that which is more 
eligible is a greater good." 

But it seems something harder to inquire concerning this 
case when it relates to others : for so it uses to be asked : 

Quest. Whether it be lawful to advise, to counsel, to 
petition, to determine, to make use of the doubt of another, 
or his necessity, or perplexity, and to call upon him to do 
that which is a sin ? The case is this ; Pollio, an intemperate 
and wanton young man, falls into adulteries and unnatural 
lusts; his friend Publius Asinius advises him, not so, but if 
he will not leave his vileness, better it is to satisfy his lust 
by single fornication, and the less harmful complications : 

Et quas Euphrates, etquasmibi misit Orontes, 
Me capiant ; nolim furta pudica tori. c 

Whether or no Publius does well in giving this advice, is 
the question ? The reasons of doubting are these : because 
he that advises evil, is guilty of the sin which he procures; 
and he that any way consents or induces another to sin, 
shall be partner in the punishment. 

To this I answer, that, in the whole intercourse, there are 
to be considered the formal sin, the material part of the 
action, and the degrees of the obliquity. The formal part, 
or the sinfulness, cannot, must not be countenanced, or as- 
sisted at all, directly or indirectly ; and in the present case it 

<> Lib. v. Ethic. 

c Propertius, ii. 23, 21. Kuiaoel, vol. i. p. 150. 


is so far from being countenanced, that it is reduced to as 

O * 

little a proportion as it can, as near to a destruction as the 
present necessity or perplexity will permit, and it is out of 
hatred to the obliquity or sinfulness that this lesser way is 
propounded. Pilate, seeing the Jews resolved to do a spite 
to the holy and most innocent Jesus, propounded to them 
a lesser way than murdering him : "I will scourge him, and 
let him go." Pilate's conscience was not perplexed, though 
his interest was ; and therefore there was no necessity for 
him to do either, and neither ought he to have propounded 
the lesser evil, which, it may be, themselves did not design : 
indeed if they were resolved to do one, he might have 
persuaded the less, not absolutely (for nothing could have 
made that lawful), but comparatively ; that is, rather that 
than the other, if ye will do one. 

2. But for the material part of the action, if it be already 
prepared, and the malice known and declared, it is lawful to 
propound a less instance of the sin without persuading to it ; 
which is to be understood with these cautions : 

1 . That it be only with a purpose of hindering a greater. 

2. When the lesser cannot be hindered, but at least so 
much must be done by way of redemption. As if Caius 
resolves to ravish a matron to satisfy his lust, it is lawful to 
divert his lust upon a common prostitute, who sells her soul 
for bread; because- her malice is always ready, and watches 
for an opportunity, and sins no less, if she wants opportunity 
which she thirsts after. 

3. That it be ever without the prejudice of a third 
person : as if one of the banditti intends to kill one man, and 
this happens to be offered to a public and a brave man, it is 
not lawful to point out his sword to the striking of a meaner 
person to save the other ; because, though, in respect of the 
effect, it be a less evil, yet it is a direct uncharitableness to 
a third, which can receive no warrant or legitimation by the 
intention of the propounder ; for although he intends that a 
less evil be done for the public, yet he intends a greater evil 
to the particular. 

4. That it be in a case certainly known where the malice 
is apparent and declared, and the matter prepared ; for thus 
we see that God, who sees the hearts of men, diverts their 
prepared malice upon some special matter, which serves the 


ends of his providence, and verifies the prophecies of God, 
and so brings his designs to effect, and a certain event by 
contingent or voluntary instruments. But we may no 
further imitate this, than we can attain to little portions of 
the knowledge of men's private and particular purposes. 

3. But as for the degrees of the obliquity or irregularity, 
it is certain none is to be persuaded or assisted directly, but 
suffered in the whole, and persuaded in the instance, by way 
of remedy against the greater, and more intolerable. Thus 
Moses permitted divorces, that the Jews might not commit 
open and frequent adulteries, or kill their wives when they 
grew weary of them. Thus an inconvenience is suffered, 
rather than a mischief shall be introduced ; and some 
fooleries and weak usages are suffered in some churches, 
rather than, by reforming them, make the ignorant people 
think all religion is indifferent : and if all the people of the 
Greek Church did perceive that any of their old customs 
were fit to be rescinded, they would, upon the same easiness, 
quit their whole religion, and turn Turks. And though an 
error is not to be permitted in any church, when it can be 
peaceably amended, and when it cannot, it is, as often as it 
can be, peaceably to be discouraged ; yet when the necessity 
is great, and the evil feared is certain, and felt, and is 
intolerable ; it is a sad necessity, but no man can help it, 
and therefore it must be as it may, the lesser error is to 
be endured, till it can be remedied, with a remedy that is 
not worse than the disease. 

Quest. Upon this occasion, and for the reducing the rule 
to practice, and to regulate a case which nowadays happens 
too frequently, it is not amiss to inquire concerning the 
necessities of women married to adulterous and morose, 
vile-natured husbands : whether it be lawful for a wife, out 
of a desire to live with some degree of a tolerable comfort, 
to connive at her husband's stolen pleasures, and to permit 
him quietly to enjoy his folly ? and what is a woman's duty, 
and what were her most prudent course, and manner of 
deportment ? 

Some of great reputation in the Church of God, both of 
old and later times, put a speedy period to this inquiry, and 
absolutely condemn it as unlawful for a man or woman to 
live with their husband or wife respectively, if either of them 


be notoriously guilty of adultery. Of this~ opinion was 
St. Jerome, d saying, " That a man is ' sub maledictione si 
adulteram retineat ; Under a curse if he retains an adul- 
teress in his embraces.' " And St. Chrysostom, 6 " Sicut 
crudelis et iniquus est qui castam dimittit, sic fatuus et 
iniquus, qui retinet meretricem. Patronus enim turpitudinis 
est, qui celat crimen uxoris; As he is cruel and unjust 
who puts a chaste wife from him, so he is unjust and a 
fool that keeps a harlot. For he is a patron of his wife's 
turpitude, who conceals his wife's adultery." And this they 
prove out of Solomon : f " Qui tenet adulteram, stulttis est;" 
almost the words which St. Chrysostom uses : " He is a 
fool that keeps an adulteress :" afcfifc it is in the Greek LXX. 
" He is an ungodly man." And of the same opinion was 
Bucer, in the last age, who for his opinion brings two 
arguments, which are not contemptible. The first is taken 
from Deuter. xxiv. 4, where God enjoins, that if a man puts 
away his wife, he must at no hand receive her again, " quia 
ipsa polluta est, she is defiled," meaning, if any man 
else hath lain with her ; and if this be a good reason, it will 
conclude stronger, that if she have committed adultery, she 
may not be entertained, because, in that case, she is much 
more polluted ; and where the reason of the commandment 
does intervene, there also the obligation does go along. But 
the other is yet more considerable ; for if God commanded 
that the adulteress should be stoned to death, certainly he 
much rather intended she should be turned out of doors. 
To which I add this consideration, that since an adulterer is 
made one flesh with the harlot with whom he mingles 
impure embraces, it follows that he hath dissolved the union 
which he had with his wife, or she with her husband ; for he 
cannot be one with his wife, and one with the harlot, and 
yet he be one in himself, and they two, for that is a perfect 
contradiction ; for that which is one with two, is not one but 
two. Now for a woman to lie with a man, or a man with 
a woman, between whom there is not a just and legitimate 
union, seems to be an unjust and illegitimate uniting ; and 
therefore it cannot be lawful to lie with an adulterer, who 
is one with a harlot. 

d In xix. Matt. e Caus. 32, q. 1, c. Sicut. ' Prov. xviii. 22. 


Before I come to the resolution of the question, I must 
describe how much these arguments do prove and infer ; 
because, though they do not prove so much as their con- 
trivers do intend, yet they do something towards the whole 
question. 1. The words of St. Jerome infer nothing but 
this, " That to live with a harlot is a great calamity, and a 
horrible curse, and it cannot indeed tend towards a blessing, 
or end well, or be at all endured, if it be not intended to 
purposes beyond the proper effect of that calamity." He 
that is smitten with a leprosy, or he that is hanged upon a 
tree, is accursed ; but if the leprosy makes a man run to 
God, or to Christ, or the man that dies upon a tree, does 
confess and glorify God, and by his death intends to do so, 
the leper shall be presented pure before the throne of grace; 
and he that hangs upon the tree, does die with Christ, and 
shall reign with him for ever. 2. And the design expressed 
in the words of St. Chrysostom, do verify this commentary 
upon the words of Jerome. For St. Chrysostom, charging 
not only infelicity, as the other does, but folly and cruelty 
upon him who retains a harlot, gives this reason, because he 
is a patron of his wife's turpitude if he conceals it ; meaning 
it, if he conceals it out of carelessness and positive neglect, 
or, which is worse, out of interest, or base designs. All 
wise and good men in the world condemn the fact of Cato, 
who did lend his wife, Marcia, a virtuous and a chaste matron, 
to his friend Hortensius. He that conceals his wife's crime, 
with an unwillingness to reform it, or a pleasure in the sin, 
or the fruits of it, is his wife's betrayer and murderer ; nay, 
he is an adulterer to his own wife. But these words cannot 
be true in all cases ; for he that conceals her shame, lest the 
discovery should make her impudent, and harden her face, 
he is no patron of the sin, but a careful guardian, watching 
lest she should commit a worse. And this also is the mean- 
ing of the words of Solomon ; for although they are not at 
all in our Bibles, because they are not found in the Hebrew 
text, yet the words, which are found in the Greek LXX. 
and in the vulgar Latin, and which are certainly in the 
Bibles which St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom did use, and 
which were the cause and original of their opinion, have 
in them this sense, ' That as he who expels a good woman, 
thrusts good from his house, so he that does not thrust an 



evil woman thence, an adulteress, he is a fool ;' meaning, if 
he connives at her wickedness, or unless he have something 
to sweeten the sufferance, or some pious purposes to sanctify 
his action. But if it were absolutely unlawful, then the 
adulteress were a person of a desperate fortune, irremediable 
and irrecoverable, incapable of mercy or repentance ; or if 
she were, yet her husband's charity and forgiveness might 
by no means be instrumental to it; and yet St. Paul, in a 
case that was extremely bad, even in a case of infidelity, asks, 
" Qui scis, mulier, an virum sis lucratura? What knowest 
thou, O woman, whether thou mayest gain thy husband ?" 
But the arguments of Bucer, being intended directly against 
the lawfulness of retaining an adulteress, or living with an 
adulterous husband, are to have distinct answers. For 
although where a commandment is given with a reason, 
wherever the same reason is, it does not always follow that 
there is the same obligation ; because, although God is 
sometimes pleased to give a reason for the precept, yet the 
reason did not bind without the precept, but the precept 
does bind without a reason, which demonstrates that the 
obligation proceeds wholly from the authority of God, and 
not from the reason (as I intended to shew more largely in 
its proper place) : yet besides this I say, the reason is not 
rightly rendered in the usual translations : " Non poterit 
prior maritus recipere, quia polluta est ; The first husband 
may not receive her, because she is defiled." For the words 
in the Hebrew are nxetsn itt^ which do not signify "be- 
cause she is polluted," but "quia facta est polluere se, 
because she is made to defile herself;" meaning, * that 
because her first husband thrust her out, and offered her to 
be humbled by him that would, he, being the cause of that 
pollution, hath lost all right to her, and the privilege of 
restitution.' And then this case refers not to a simple 
adultery, but to him who betrays or exposes his wife to 
adultery ; and indeed such a person might not, in Moses' 
law, receive her again ; and this was the case of Cato and 
Socrates, who were very free in lending their wives, as a man 
lends a utensil. As for the case of lapidation, it is true, 
the woman, if she were legally convicted, was to die ; but the 
husband was not bound to accuse her, he might pardon 
her if he pleased, and conceal the fact ; he might pardon her 


for his share, as Christ did the woman taken in adultery; or 
put her away privately, as Joseph, upon a mistake, intended 
to do to the blessed Virgin-mother : but that it is, therefore, 
unlawful to retain her whom his soul loves, whom he would 
fain convert, whom he desires and hopes to reform, or that 
God did intend the good man should not use any of his 
charity and kindness to any such purpose, is not at all to be 
concluded by these arguments. Now as to the last, the 
adulterous man is one with the harlot, but this union is not 
a natural union, but a spiritual and legal, as appears by the 
effect of second and third marriages ; for one person can no 
more be one naturally with two or three successively, than 
he can be one with many at one time ; and when the 
patriarchs were married to divers women at once, they were 
not naturally one with them all, but legally they were; that 
is, they were conjoined in holy bands, and were to very 
many purposes to be reckoned but as one. Ev ydg fhiv av^o yvvq rfj pvffii, ry ffvpirvotef,, rij tvuasi, rp diadsffsi, rw /3/w, r 
rgoKw, xi^toyigjAivoi ds ijffi ru fffflfAari xai r<l ug&fAuJ , said 
Clemens : They were one person by union of affection, they 
had one bed, one purse, one interest, community of children, 
communication of bodies, equal rights as to the power of 
marriage, the same band of duty, tied by the same mystery. 
Now, he or she that commits adultery, breaks this union, 
and divides or imparts some of the rights due to each other 
to an impure person, and they become one flesh in an impure 
mixture. Now, because he or she that first breaks this 
union, loses their own right by invading or giving away 
another's, therefore the offending person may be put away, 
and refused in their petition of right, which they have lost 
by doing wrong. But the adultery hath not so united the 
offending persons, but that the union can, and may better be 
broke, and the erring party reduced to his rule, and to his 
right. For it is but a legal, and it is a spiritual or intel- 
lectual union, which is to be done not by material, but by 
moral instruments, which can eternally return, and be 
effective when they do. The way then being thus far made 
straight, I answer, 

That it is not only lawful, but may have in it great piety 
and great charity, for a woman still to cohabit with an adul- 
terous husband. The lawfulness appears, in that there is no 


prohibition by a Divine commandment, no natural unclean- 
ness in it; and this appears as all other negative pretences 
can, even by evacuating the pretences made to the contrary. 
Of this opinion was St. Basil, who also made a canon for it, 
and commanded it to be done in his church, as appears in 
his Epistle to Amphilochius I. can. 9. and 21. The same 
also was the sentence of St. Austin to Polentius, and in his 
book ' de Adulterinis Conjugiis;' 8 and of Pope Pelagius, in his 
Epistle to Melleus, his subdeacon. But they, it seems, went 
against the general stream ; for they were not only forced to 
dispute it, but also to limit the question and the permission. 
For David received his wife Michal, who had lived with 
another man ; and St. Paul advises the wife to be reconciled 
to her husband ; and Christ forgave the woman taken in 
adultery ; and God not only is ready to forgive, but calls and 
invites his Church to return to his love, though she hath 
been an adulteress, and committed fornication against him. 
But, therefore, so may a man ; but it ought only to be done 
in case the sinning person does repent : only St. Basil is for 
the living still with the adulterer, though he wallow in his 
sin ; but does not think it fit the man should be tied to do 
so to his adulterous wife. That he or she respectively may, 
if they will, still live with the sinning person, needs no other 
proof but this, that the innocent, being also the injured 
person, may forgive the injury done to them ; and that it 
may have in it great piety, and great charity, is certain upon 
the same account on which it can be piety and charity to 
suffer injuries, to be patient, to have a long-suffering spirit, 
to exhort, to entreat, to bring the sinner to repentance, to 
convert a soul, to save a sinner from the evil of his way. 
But this is to be practised with the following measures and 
cautions : 

1. The innocent person must not be bound to do this, 
because, the union being dissolved, the criminal hath lost 
his right, and therefore, if the other use their liberty, they do 
no wrong; and although it may be good charity in many 
instances to do it, yet because there is no direct obligation 
in any, and there may be great uncharitableness to one's 
self, as the case may happen, no one's liberty is to be 

* Lib. iii. 


prejudiced in this particular, but they are to be exhorted to 
all instances of charity ; ever remembering that saying of 
God by the prophet, " The Lord God of Israel saith, He 
hateth putting away." h 

2. The innocent person may lawfully retain the criminal, 
though he or she have no other end or purpose in it, but the 
love of the purpose, or the retaining of their own rights 
temporal, or any other thing that is in itself honest and 
lawful : and the reason is, because the fault of the one is not 
to prejudice the other; and it is misery enough to be injured 
in their direct relation, and not that this injury compel them 
to receive another. If Titius be an adulterer, his wife, Caia, 
hath not lost her power over his body, or her interest in his 
family and fortune. 

3. This is to last as long as there are any hopes of 
repentance, and the repentance is to be procured and 
endeavoured by all direct means, and by all the indirect 
means which are ministered to the innocent person by the 
power and advantages which his or her innocence gives over 
the guiltiness of the other : such as are, reproving his fault, 
denying conjugal rights, delating the person, bringing him 
or her to private shame, procuring reproof from spiritual 
superiors, or natural relatives, and indeed any thing that can 
be prudent, and by which the offender can be made better, 
and will not be made worse. 

4. If there be no hopes of repentance, yet still the innocent 
person may use their own right, not only because there may 
be possibilities and real consequent events when we have no 
hopes ; and St. Paul's question, " Qui scis, 6 mulier ? 
How knowest thou, O woman, whether thou shall gain thy 
husband?" may still have place; not only, I say, for this 
reason, but for the foregoing ; the innocent person does not 
lose his or her right, and, therefore, may still possess what 
otherwise she might quit ; and his incontinence does not 
oblige her to be exposed to the danger of a vugcugis or 
ustulation, nor to be reproached with the noises of divorce, 
nor offered to an actual poverty, or dereliction, or to become 
an actual widow before death. 

5. If the retaining the adulteress be actually scandalous, 

h Malacbi, ii. 16. 


the Church, in that case, hath been more restrained in her 
permission, and hath commanded the innocent person to put 
the offending woman away : and, therefore, the fathers, in 
the Council of Eliberis, 1 refused to give the communion to a 
clergyman even at the last, if he did not 'statim projicere, 
instantly expel' from his house his wife, whom he knew 
to commit adultery : and in the Council of Neo-Caesarea, he 
was to be deposed from his dignity in the same case ; the 
reason is given by the Council of Eliberis ; k " Ne ab his, 
qui exemplum bonae conversations esse debent, videantur 
magisteria scelerum procedere ; Lest their houses, which 
ought to be the examples of piety and chastity, become the 
precedents and warranty of uncleanness." This is nothing 
else but a pursuance of the canon apostolical, 1 requiring 
that bishops and deacons should be such " who rule their 
own houses well ;" for if they cannot do that, it is not easy 
to be supposed they can well rule the Church of God : and 
though a good man may have an evil wife, and such a one 
whom no prudence can govern ; yet if she be an adulteress, 
he can put her away, though he cannot govern her: and 
indeed, all such reproaches ought to be infinitely removed 
from the houses of those whose lives and whose govern- 
ments ought to be exemplar. " Oportet suspicionem abesse 
a Caesaris domo." Princes and prelates ought not to have 
any thing under their roof so nearly relating to them, that 
can justly be suspected. But this is matter of decency and 
fittingness, not of indispensable necessity. 

6. The innocent person must not directly, by any com- 
pliance, cohabitation, or indulgence, give countenance or 
encouragement to the impurity or crimes of the offending 
relative ; for nothing can make it tolerable or lawful to pro- 
mote a sin, or any ways directly to co-operate toward it. 
This is a ' species lenocinii^a being a bawd to the unclean- 
ness of that person, whom, with our lives, we ought to rescue 
from that damnation if we could. And, therefore, if the 
woman finds her husband grow worse by her toleration and 
sufferance, she is to go off from it by such degrees as are on 
this side the extreme remedy, which I reckoned before in the 
third caution ; and if nothing else hinder, it is not only 

C.65. k C. 8. ' 1 Tim. iii. 4, 5. 


excusable, but hugely charitable, and in a very great degree 
commendable, to be divorced. For she uses her own power, 
and, therefore, sins not, and does it-when nothing else can 
prevail ; and, therefore, she is not rash, or light and inquisi- 
tive after new relations, and she does it that she may not 
patronise or increase his sin, and, therefore, is charitable to 
his better interest. 

7. But if his or her compliance and cohabitation does 
accidentally make the offending party worse, yet if it be 
besides the intention, and against the purpose, and contrary 
to the endeavours of the innocent ; he or she, in that case, is 
not tied to relinquish their right and their advantages in the 
present possession or cohabitation. 1. Because concerning 
accidental events, against which we labour, no man is to 
give account. 2. Because of this accidental event, the 
offending person is the only author, and the innocent is not to 
suffer for his sin. 3. If the innocent person were tied to 
depart, then it were at any time in the power of the adulterer 
or adulteress to be divorced from the innocent, because he, 
growing worse by the other's being good, can oblige the 
other to quit him of the burden which he hates. 4. Because 
to depart in that case is no remedy. Because he that is 
vile, may grow worse by contrary causes ; and as wicked 
men are made presumptuous by mercies, and hardened by 
judgments, and whether they be punished or not punished, 
from both they take occasion to persevere ; so may an 
adulterer, or an adulteress, by being sweetly used, or by 
being harshly. All that can be of duty and necessity in this 
case, is that the innocent person, with all prudent advice 
and caution, do not, by any direct act, encourage the crime, 
or connive at it when it can be helped, or commend it 
when it cannot, or refuse to use any fair or any just 
instrument of curing the leper : and for the rest, let them 
pray earnestly, frequently, humbly, and leave the event to 
God. It is lawful to permit or suffer an evil which I cannot 
help, and by that permission retain my own rights, or pre- 
vent my own wrongs ; but it is at no hand lawful for any 
interest, spiritual or temporal, to do an evil, or to set it 
directly forward. 

Thus some commonwealths permit fornication and public 
stews, to prevent the horrid consequents of the lusts of their 


young men, which, when they^cannot cure, they seek to 
lessen and divert ; and though there be, in the whole, many 
evil appendages, and a great fault in government, and many 
evil and avoidable necessities introduced or supposed ; yet so 
far as this intention is considered, if it were not avoidable or 
remediable by the severity of laws, and the wisdom of dis- 
courses, and the excellences of religion, it were the only 
charity that were left, and an after-game of conscience and 
religion ; sad and fatal to those whose folly infers it ; but all 
that is left, that can be done for God and for souls. 

But yet this thing, in all the circumstances, is not to be 
done at all, because it is a snare to many who have no such 
necessities, who are otherwise curable, who enter into the 
temptation, because it is made ready to their hand ; and it-is 
a high scandal to the laws and to the religion of a country, 
where such vile nests of impurity are suffered ; and the 
necessity is but fantastic, accidental, and inferred by evil 
customs, or some secular interest, or weaker regard ; for 
there is no necessity that men must either debauch matrons 
or be fornicators ; let them marry, for that is the remedy 
which God hath appointed, and he knows best how to satisfy 
and provide for all the needs of mankind. But it is ob- 
jected, 'The laws of Italy forbid the younger brothers of 
great families to marry.' That is it which I said, men make 
necessities of their own, and then find ways to satisfy them, 
which, therefore, cannot be warranted by that necessity, 
because that necessity is of their own procuring, not from 
God, nor for him. For this is the case; an evil is to be 
cured, and a greater prevented ; God hath appointed marriage 
for a remedy, the civil power forbids it to some persons, 
who, for want of that, must fornicate, or do worse. To pre- 
vent the worse, they provide them of opportunities of doing 
the less. But what remedy is there for the less ? That is 
not thought of; for marriage is inconvenient to younger 
families ; but it is very convenient for their souls, and they 
also would be provided for, as being no contemptible inte- 
rest. Here, therefore, if tiiey would alter the necessities 
which worldly interest introduced, if they would prefer souls 
before the greatness of families, heaven before a marquesate 
in Sardinia, and would esteem it more honour to a house to 
have chastity preserved rather than wealth and an entire 



inheritance, the weak pretences of excuse for stews would be 
hissed off from the face of all Christian countries ; for if 
fornication be a remedy against unnatural lusts, it is just as 
being poisoned is an antidote against hanging; but, certainly 
there is a better ; innocence or pardon will prevent it with 
more advantage, and so will marriage do to the worst evils 
of lust ; unless no health is considerable which is not effected 
by a witch, and ease is to be despised if it be brought with 
a blessing. But if any one can pretend, that marriage will 
not secure the Italians or hot Spaniards from attempting 
intolerable vilenesses (besides that fornication will do less, as 
having in it no more of natural remedy, and not so much by 
way of blessing) ; in this case, the wheel or the galleys, 
hard labour and the mines, the rods and axes, must pare off 
the luxury. 

This, therefore, is the result, as to this particular instance. 
In the questions of greater or lesser uncleannesses, permis- 
sions are not to be made by public authority, for the reasons 
before named ; but there may be particular necessities in. 
single instances which will run into present evil, for whicK 
no remedy can be provided ; and then it is lawful to divert 
the malice upon a less matter, when it cannot be taken off 
entirely : for thus righteous Lot m offered his daughters to 
the impure Sodomites, to redeem the strangers from the 
violation intended them, and to hinder his citizens from 
breaking the laws of nature and hospitality, which (if they 
were not always) yet then they were of greater obligation 
than the restraints of simple fornication. And to this pur- 
pose is that of St. Chrysostom, who, to a man that is 
accustomed to swear, and cannot avoid it, advises that he 
should rather swear by his head than by God. I do not, I 
confess, like the instance ; both, 1. Because it is, in some 
cases, worse to swear by a creature than by the Creator ; it is, 
an honour done to him to swear by him, though to do it 
triflingly is such an honour done to him, as superstition is, 
an honour that angers him : and, 2. Also because he that 
can pretend his swearing to be unavoidable, does say so, 
because he does swear when he cannot deliberate ; and if he 

m S. Ambr. lib. i. c. 6. de Patriarch. Abraham. 
Horn, xxvii. ad Pop. Antiochen. 


does not consider, he can never make use of his advice to do 
one rather than another ; for no man can choose that cannot 
consider ; but as for the prime intention of the advice, that 
'the least evil is to be chosen, or advised, it is, without ques- 
tion, safe and prudent. 

Of the same purpose are these words of St. Austin: 
" Si decrevisti homicidium aut adulterium facere, adulterium 
commilte, non homicidium; Ifthou wilt murder or com- 
mit adultery, do this, not that ;" that is, rather this than 
that. But neither here am I pleased with the instance ; 
because, when any man can lawfully be diverted to a less 
sin, it must be in the same kind; because the same lust 
cannot be filled with a differing object ; and if the temptation 
be such that it can be taken off wholly from that scene, and 
changed to a differing and disparate matter, he can as well 
be turned to something that is innocent as to some other 
distinct vice ; that is, he may for all his temptation. From 
unnatural lusts to natural, from the greater kind to the less, 
from adultery to fornication, from fornication to trifling 
amours and Platonic fooleries ; from murder to a blow, from 
a blow to an angry word ; these are proper diminutions, 
which are in a direct order to the retrenching of the sin : 
but from murder to adultery a man is not to be diverted, 
because this is not a direct lessening of the degrees of sin, 
but a changing it into equal; or if it be not, yet the malice 
is more extended, if not intended, and the man is directly 
tempted to be a devil upon a new score, for it must be a new 
malice that must change him ; but still the advice is, in its 
main design, safe and innocent. 

But of the same mind is St. Gregory,? affirming it to be 
good advice, that when of two sins one must be chosen, that 
the least be it ; but his proof of it is not to be suffered : for 
* so,' saith he, * for the avoiding fornication, St. Paul permits 
marriage ;' which saying of his, without great violence to 
the words, and charity to the man, can never be reconciled 
with the truth of Scriptures, or the honour of marriage ; 
but as for the main advice, it is well and agreeable to right 

But besides the cautions already given, q relating to the 

De Adulterin. Conjug. lib. i. c. 15. P Moral. lib. xxxii. c. 18. 9 N. 4. 


material part of sin, the whole affair is to be conducted with 
these provisions : 

1. No man may use this course, by engaging in a present 
lesser evil, to seek to prevent a greater that is to come : 
the reason is, because this is a securing of evil, it is an 
assurance and a certain gain to the interest of sin, and this 
certainly may outweigh the greater degree of an uncertain 
evil ; and there are many acts of providence which may 
intervene and prevent the future evil, which, therefore, is not 
to be prevented by a present evil, though less mischievous, 
because possibly it may be hindered at a cheaper rate ; 
and no little evil is to be done, but when either itself or 
a greater is unavoidable ; which happens not (for aught we 
know) in the present case; for before to-morrow the man 
may die, or his affections to sin may die, or he may be sick, 
or scared, and to put it off as long as we can, is one kind of 
diminution and lessening of the sin, which is the thing here 
consulted of. 

2. Care must be taken, that, by this means, no man's 
sin be promoted, no man's eternal interest be lessened, no 
evil be done that we could and ought to forbid and 
hinder; and that of this we have a moral certainty, or 
at least no probable cause to doubt : the reason is, be- 
cause if we put any man's soul to hazard, by procuring 
a less damnation to an evil person, the evil we do is 
greater than good ; and we venture one mischief, for the 
venture or hopes of lessening another. Quintus Milvius, 
being in love with the wife of Mursena, and she with 
him, Milvius resolves to kill his wife, Virginia, and run 
away with the wife of Muraena, or force her from him ; 
he acquaints his freed -man, Priscus Calvus, with his pur- 
pose, but he, to divert his purpose of murder and adultery, 
persuades his patron, Milvius, rather to lie with Mursena's 
wife now, than to do such things of hazard, and evil voice, 
and dishonour : and his advice was charitable, and prevailed ; 
for though the adultery was future, yet the intended murder 
was present, and the evil was lessened as much as it could, 
and no man prejudiced, but the life of one saved. But if he 
believes, that by this act Virginia will be so exasperated, 
that she will turn adulteress in revenge, or kill her husband ; 


this is not to be advised upon the foregoing reason. If a 
rich usurer refuses to give an alms to a starved person, he 
may be advised rather to lend hirn some money upon 
interest, than suffer him to die for want of bread : but if I 
believe, or probably suppose or suspect, that another man will 
be confirmed in the uncharitableness, and think, because I 
advise him to this, he does well in it, and will live and die 
in this opinion, then I may not, at the charge of another 
man's soul, do the other wicked person that small advantage 
which is less than can countervail the other evil. 

3. He that advises the lesser evil for the avoiding of a 
greater, must not advise any thing so to serve his own interest 
or humour, as that he shall in any sense be delighted with the 
evil, because so he becomes guilty of the other's sin, and then 
he cannot do a thing lawfully, if it asperses him with guilt ; 
and he may not serve another's need with his own evil joys ; 
and the interest of souls is not set forward when one dies to 
make another less sick. But besides this, the question here 
being whether it be lawful to advise a less evil for avoiding 
of a greater, though it be affirmed to be so, when it is wholly 
for the avoiding the greater ; yet it cannot be lawful to give 
such advice to serve my own lower ends ; nothing but the 
former can legitimate such an advice, and therefore this 
latter cannot. 

4. No man must make use of this course himself; for 
though it be lawful to divert a greater evil by advising the 
less to others, yet I may not myself choose a less, that I may 
not choose a greater; for if this be lawful, it would be 
in the power of any man to sin what sin he pleased, and to 
threaten his conscience into a leave ; for if he should resolve 
he would either kill the father, or lie with the daughter ; 
be unnatural in his lusts, or loose in his entertainments, he 
might legitimate every lesser sin for fear of the greater. 
But therefore it is certain, that when he can choose either, 
he must choose none, for nothing can make it lawful 
directly to choose any, even the least evil. But when it so 
happens that the conscience is doubtful and perplexed, and 
that in this sad conjunction of evil and weak thoughts, it 
seems unavoidable but that one must be chosen, we may 
then incline to that which hath least danger and least mischief. 


And this advice was given by the chancellor of Paris : r "Si 
sub electione proponuntur duo mala, cave neutrum eligas : 
Nam in mails quid est eligendutn ? At vero si culpa nostra 
eo recidimus, ut necesse sit alterum ex peccatis fieri, minus 
est acceptandum ; quia jam in comparatione deterioris, sortitur 
boni, secundum quid, rationem." No sin is to be chosen 
when both can be avoided, but when they cannot, the least 
is to be suffered. But when this comes to be another man's 
case that he will not avoid both, though he sins in choosing 
any, yet he that advises him rather to take the less, does 
not sin. He that chooses the less, sins less, but yet sins, 
because he should choose none at all ; but he that advises 
him to choose the less, sins not at all, because he hinders all 
sin as much as he can. 

5. He that advises a less sin for the prevention of a 
greater, must see that it be directly less, and certainly so ; it 
must be in the same matter and kind, and in a less degree, 
because he can no otherwise be certain that he hath done 
any good at all, and may do a greater evil. For in degrees 
of sin the case is clear when the matter or instance is the 
same ; but if it be specifically different, or in the whole kind, 
all question of degrees is infinitely uncertain, and therefore 
the rule is not without danger practicable in such cases. 
But of this I have already given some accounts in the fifth 
number of this rule. 

But because all this discourse relies upon this main 
ground, that the lesser evil in respect of the greater hath the 
nature of good, and therefore is to be preferred ; or (which 
is all one) the avoiding of the greater evil is directly a good, 
and the suffering the less evil is better than suffering the 
other, yet because it is but comparatively good, it is posi- 
tively evil ; here it is to be inquired, whether this can be 
lawful, or is it not a prevaricating of the apostle's rule, that 
" evil is not to be done, that good may come of it ? " and 
whether this may be done in any case, and by what cautions 
it can be permitted or made legitimate. This inquiry hath 
great uses in the whole life of men ; and therefore is not 
unworthy a stricter search. 

And first as to the present rule, it is certain, that this 

r Gerson. tract. 8, in Magnif. num. 88, lit. F. 


permission is not a doing evil that good may come of it : 
1. Because no evil is at all permitted when all can be 
avoided. 2. Because no man is to act this rule in his own 
person, upon whom he may and ought to have a power of 
persuasion and effort sufficient to cause himself to decline 
all evil. 3. It is only permitted to he advised to others by 
such persons who hate all sin, and have neither pleasure nor 
interest in any. 4. It is not a giving leave to any sin, but 
a hindering as much as can be hindered. It is not a doing 
any thing at all of kindness to any thing but to the man. 
It is like that permission which the sons of Israel gave to 
the remnant of the Canaanites, to live in the land because 
they could not destroy them all. They killed as many as 
they could, and it was not kindness, but necessity, that left 
those few alive. And the thing was not ill expressed by 
Petrarch, 5 " Duobus aut pluribus ex malis minus malum eli- 
gendum esse non video, cum minus malum baud dubie malum 
sit, qualiter mali electio sit laudarida. Itaque rectius dici 
reor, majora mala majori studio vitanda, ut si vitari cuncta 
non possunt, miuora facilius tolerentur, non electione, sed 
patientia, aequanimitate, tnodestia ; Of two evils, the least 
is not to be chosen, since that the less evil is without all doubt 
an evil. Thus, therefore, I suppose we ought to say, the 
greater evils are with greater care to be avoided, that if all 
cannot be declined, the less may be better tolerated, not by 
choice, but by patience." Now though it be not lawful to 
do evil for a good end, yet it is lawful to suffer evil to avoid 
a greater, and to make the best of it that we can ; which was 
the counsel which Cicero 1 says he received from learned 
men ; " Non solum ex malis eligere minima oportere ; sed 
etiam excerpere ex his ipsis, si quid inesset boni." 

But to the thing itself, there can be no dispute but that 
it is highly unlawful to do evil for a good end ; St. Paul's" 
words are decretory and passionate in the thing : he calls 
it slander, or blasphemy, that they reported of him that he 
should say, " It was lawful to do evil that good might come 
of it;" he also affirms, that though the greatness of the sins 
of the Jews or Gentiles did magnify the greatness of the 

Lib. v. epist. rerum senilitim. 

Offic. iii. 1, 9. Heusinger, p. 571. Romans iii. 8. 


Divine mercy, yet they whose sins accidentally thus served 
the glorification of God, their damnation was just. Though 
this be clear and certain, yet I doubt not but all the world 
does evil that good may come of it; and though all men are 
of St. Paul's opinion, yet all men do not blame themselves 
when they do against it. I will therefore first represent the 
matters of fact, and then consider of the allays or excuses to 
which men pretend in their private accounts or public 
answers, and so separate the certain from the uncertain, and 
establish the proper measures of the proposition. 

For, first, if we look in Scripture, we shall find that divers 
eminently holy have served God by strange violences of fact, 
and for his glory have laid hold upon instruments not fit to 
be handled, but such which would have cut the hands of a 
Christian, if they had been drawn through them. David 
gave order to Hushai to enrol himself in the rebel party, 
and to deal falsely with Absalom, that he might do good to 
David ; and indeed so do all spies, which, if they were not 
necessary, would not be used in all armies ; and if they be, 
yet they do that which honest men would scruple at. Elias w 
the prophet, that he might bring the people from idolatry, 
caused a sacrifice to Baal to be made, and the idol to be 
invocated, which of itself was simply and absolutely evil ; 
and Jehu (though a much worse man) yet proclaimed an 
assembly for Baal, and both of them did it that they might 
destroy the priests of Baal, and dishonour the idol, and do 
honour to God, and both did well : and for aught appears, so 
did the ten men of Shechem, who, to redeem their lives from 
the fury of Ishmael, discovered the secret treasures of the 
nation : x and amongst the Christians some women, particu- 
larly Pelagia and her daughters, have drowned themselves 
to prevent the worst evil of being deflowered. And is it not 
necessary in all governments, that by violence peace should 
be established, and by great examples of an intolerable justice 
others should be made afraid? For so do all princes know- 
ingly procure their rights by doing wrong ; for, in all wars, 
the innocent must suffer that the guilty may be punished : 
and besides that all great examples have in them something 
of iniquity, it were not easy to have discipline in private 
governments, or coercitive power in laws, if in some cases 

w 1 Kings, xviii. 25. * Jerem. xir. 


some evil were not to be permitted to be done for the pro- 
curing some good. For suppose Corippus hath an obstinate 
servant, so perverse that like the sides of elephants his very 
soul grows hard by stripes, and that Corippus knows this, 
yet if he have other servants who will be corrupted by the 
impunity of this, he may, he must do evil to the obstinate, 
and ruin his soul for the preserving the others. And, indeed, 
if we consider how sad, how intolerable an evil it is that a 
malefactor is snatched from his scene of evil and vile actions, 
and hurried to hell with his sins about him ; and that for 
the only reason of doing good to others, and preserving the 
public interest ; it will seem necessary that this interest be 
preserved, and, therefore, that the other instrument be em- 
ployed; for it is natural enough that as truth comes from 
falsehood, so should good from evil ; it is not an accidental 
or contingent product, but sometimes natural and proper; 
and as God brings good out of evil by his almighty power, so 
do good men by the nature of the thing ; and then the inter- 
medial evil to a wise and religious person is like unhandsome 
and ill-tasted physic, it is against nature in the taking and 
in its operating, but for the preservation of nature in the 
effect and consequent ; so are some evils against religion but 
useful for its advancement. And this very similitude sup- 
plies many particulars of the same nature. For thus we 
make children vainglorious that they may love noble things ; 
and who can govern prudently and wisely that resolves never 
to be angry ? and to be angry so as to do the work of govern- 
ment ; though it be not bigger than the measures of the 
governor, yet they exceed the measures of the man. Thus 
for physic it is affirmed to be lawful for a man to be drunk : 
and Cardinal Tolet* allows of voluntary desires of pollution, 
when without it we cannot have our health ; and yet to desire 
such pollution without such a good purpose is certainly cri- 
minal ; and if, for the interest of health, evil may be done, 
much more for religion and effects of holiness. But thus I 
said, it must happen in public governments : the Christians 
that dwell in China, Japan, and in the Indies, cannot transact 
their affairs with the heathens without oaths, and therefore 
they make them swear by their own false gods, by the names 
of their idols and devils, which only they think binding, 

i Lib. v. c. 13. 


and neither could there be any security of faith to princes 
or to subjects, that is, in the public or private intercourse, 
without it, and yet without question as to swear by devils 
and false deities is a high crime, so to require or to procure 
it is a great sin, and yet it is done for necessity. The 
Romans would not trust the Jews that would swear by the 
temple of Jupiter: 

Ecce negas, jurasque mihi per templa Tonantis : 
Non credo ; jura, verpe, per AncLialum." 

No trust was given, unless they swore by the God whom they 
feared ; and so it is in the case of others : and what is neces- 
sary, it were very strange if it might not be permitted. And 
what else can be the meaning of dispensations, but that a 
thing which is otherwise unlawful, is made good by its minis- 
tering to a good end ? that is, it is lawful to do evil, to break 
a law, and leave is given to do so, when it is necessary, or 
when it is charitable. Upon this account it is that pre- 
scription does transfer a right, and confirms the putative and 
presumed, in defiance of the legal and proper; and this is for 
no other reason but to prevent uncertainties in title, and 
eternal contentions, which is a certain doing injury to the 
right owner, that good may be procured or evil pretended. 
When a man is in extreme necessity, the distinctions of do- 
minion do cease ; and when David and his soldiers were 
hungry, they ate the shew-bread which God forbade to all but 
to the priests; and so did the apostles, to satisfy their hunger, 
break the Sabbath by pulling and rubbing the ears of corn ; 
and in the defence of a man's own life it is lawful to kill 
another ; which is certainly a doing evil for a good end : and 
if it be said, that this is not a doing evil, because the end 
makes it not to be evil, this is a plain confessing the question 
against the words of St. Paul ; for if the good end makes 
that to be lawful, which of itself, without that end, is unlaw- 
ful, then we may conclude against St. Paul, that it is good to 
do evil that good may come ; that is, it is changed by the end 
and by the design. And upon an equal stock of necessity it 
is, that all princes think themselves excused, if by inferring a 
war they go to lessen their growing neighbours ; but this is a 
doing wrong to prevent a mischief; as the birds in Plutarch, b 
that beat the cuckoo for fear that in time she should become 

* Mart xi. 95. b Lib. vi. Apophth. 



a hawk. And this is certain in the matters of omission, 
though to omit a duty be simply evil, yet when it is neces- 
sary, it is also lawful, and when it is charitable it is lawful. 
Thus religion yields to charity, and charity to justice, and 
justice itself to necessity, and a man is not bound to pay his 
debts, when to do so will take from him his natural support. 
And it is thus also in commissions ; who will not tell a harm- 
less lie to save the life of his friend, of his child, of himself, 
of a good and brave man ? and to govern children and fools 
by saying false things, no man makes a scruple : and physi- 
cians are commended, if, by a witty lie, they can cozen 
melancholic and hypochondriacal men into a cure. Thus 
the man of Athens, who fancied, if he should make water, 
he should drown the city, was cured by his physician's 
ingenious fiction that the city was on fire, and desiring him 
to quench it with his urine, lest water should be wanting in 
that great necessity, struck his fancy luckily, and prevailed 
upon him to do that which no direct persuasion could effect. 
Thus Hercules de Saxonia having committed to his charge 
a melancholic man, who, supposing himself to be the prophet 
Elias, would needs fast forty days, dressed a fellow like an 
angel, who pretending that he brought him meat from 
heaven, prevailed upon him to receive both food and physic. 
This lie was charitable, and if it was not therefore innocent, 
then some charity can be criminal: but if it was innocent, it 
was made so wholly by the good end, which sanctified the 
evil instrument. Thus also judges exact oaths from contra- 
dicting parts, though they know that one is perjured, but yet 
he proceeds by such means to guess at truth, and satisfy the 
solemnities of law. And when the judges themselves are 
corrupt, we think it fit to give them bribes to make them do 
justice, who, otherwise, would for bribes do injustice ; and 
yet we suppose we are no more to be reproved than they are 
who pay interest money to the usurers and bankers whom yet 
themselves believe to sin. But bribery is a sin, and bribery 
in a wrong cause is two or three ; and therefore let the cause 
be what it will, it is no way tolerable but that it is for a good 
end. Thus we venture into danger to serve worthy designs; 
some read heretical boojis to be able to confute them : and 
some venture into persecutions which they could avoid, 
because they would not weaken the hands of such who cannot 


avoid it ; and yet, to go to danger is not safe, and there- 
fore against charity, and therefore a sin ; and yet it is for 
charity and faith, even when it is against one of them. And 
last of all, all men do, and they believe they may. make ad- 
dresses to a tyrant for justice, and though he sits on the 
bench by wrong, yet we stoop to his purple, and kiss his rods 
and axes, when we desire to be defended from the oppression 
of a lesser tyrant ; and if this be not a doing evil that good 
may corne of it, then it is no evil to make another do an act 
of usurped power, or to bend to a power which destroys that 
to which we are bound by the oath of God. 

These instances I have not brought in opposition of the 
apostle's rule, or that I think any man else pretends any of 
these in defiance of it, but to represent that either a great 
part of mankind does it when they least think of it, or that 
some things which seem evil are not so ; and that I may 
describe the measures of these things, and establish the case 

o * 

of conscience upon its just limits and rule. 

1. Therefore it is to be observed, that the facts of men 
living under a law, are not to be measured by laws of a dif- 
fering government ; and therefore, if the facts of worthy men 
were exemplary (of which in its proper place I am to give 
accounts), yet the facts of saints in the Old Testament would 
not be safe examples to us in the New; and therefore we 
may not do that which Hushai did, for he did well, that is, 
against nothing of the law under which he stood ; but if the 
simplicity and ingenuity of our law gives us other measures, 
the effect will be, that Hushai did not do evil for a good end. 
but did well to a good purpose. And as to the thing itself, 
it is very likely that it is lawful to abuse his credulity, whose 
life I may lawfully take ; the cautions and limits of which 
permission belong not to this present inquiry. 

2. The rules of war, and the measures of public interest, 
are not to be estimated by private measures ; and, therefore, 
because this is unlawful in private intercourses, it must not 
be concluded to be evil in the public. For human affairs are 
so intricate and entangled, our rules so imperfect, so many 
necessities supervene, and our power is so limited, and our 
knowledge so little, and our provisions so short-sighted, that 
those things which are, in private, evils, may be public 
goods : and therefore, in this question, the evil and the good 


are to be in the same kind ; a private evil is not to be done 
for the procuring of a private good, but for a public it may : 
not that evil may be done for any thing, but that here it is 
not evil, when it is measured by the public standard. For, 
since God is the fountain of government, he also gives 
authority to all such propositions which are necessary means 
of its support, not to all which pretend to it, or which are 
inferred by folly or ambition, but which are really such. 
War cannot be made as a man corrects his child, with even 
degrees of anger, and a just number of stripes, and equalities 
of punishment both to the person and to the offence : and 
kings are in the place of God, who strikes whole nations, and 
towns, and villages ; and war is the rod of God in the hands 
of princes : but the evils which are intermedial to the greater 
purposes of a just war, are such which are unavoidable in 
themselves, and besides the intentions of good kings ; and 
therefore, in such cases, though much evil is suffered because 
it is unavoidable, yet none is done of choice, and that makes 
not against the rule. For, 

3. In many of the instances objected, the evils which are 
the ways of procuring good, are not evils in morality, but in 
nature ; and then it is lawful, when there is no malice in the 
design, to prevent the sin, or to do a good office by a shrewd 
turn. Thus I may pull my friend out of a pool by a strained 
arm, and save his life by putting his arm out of joint ; and 
this is a doing evil materially, with a pious purpose, that is 
without malice, and for a good end, and that is innocent and 
charitable, when it is unavoidable, but it is not to be chosen 
and done with delight, or evil intent, or perfect election ; to 
do evil to a man in this case is besides the man's intention, it 
is accidental also to the whole event, it is not so much as 
giving unpleasing physic, not so much as imposing cup- 
ping-glasses and using scarifications; for this is volun- 
tary and chosen for a good end, because the good can- 
not else well be procured, and yet it is chosen upon those 
terms by the patient. Upon this account a man may give his 
life for his friend, or wish himself dead; and St. Paul wished 
himself " accursed for his brethren," and Moses desired to 
be blotted out of the Book of Life in zeal for the people of 
God ; and yet all this is a very great charity, because though 
a man may not do evil, yet he may suffer evil for a good end ; 


lie may not procure it, but he may undergo it : and after all, 
the doing of a natural or physical evil may be permitted when 
there is no motive but charity, for then it is in no sense for- 
bidden ; sometimes necessary and unavoidable, but noways 
evil or criminal ; and if it be, it becomes so by accident, or by 
the intertexture of some other ingredient. 

4. When the evils are subordinate or relative, the less may 
be done to prevent the greater, though they be not in the 
same matter ; as a child may be beaten to prevent a sin, an 
offender smitten to make him diligent : for these actions, 
though they are in the accounts of evil things, yet have no 
intrinsical irregularity, but wholly depend upon the end ; but 
because commonly evil things are done to evil purposes, and 
with irregular measures, they have an ill name ; but they can 
be changed when the end is made straight, and the measures 
temperate. Every thing that is not intrinsically evil, if it be 
directed to a good end, is good, unless it be spoiled by some 
intervening accident. 

5. Some things are evils properly and naturally, some by 
accident, some by our own faults, some by the faults of 
others. An action may be innocent as from me, and yet a 
very great evil by the fault of others : a malefactor put to 
death, it may be, perishes eternally ; if he does, it is his own 
fault, the laws are innocent when they smite him for the 
good of others : and this is not a doing evil that good may 
come of it, for in things not essentially and unalterably evil, 
good and evil are in relations, and though the smiting some 
sinners produce a very evil effect, yet it is only to be imputed 
to its own cause. There is a good and an evil in many 
things, and God and the devil have their share of the thing, 
and so have several persons, according as they intend, and 
as they operate : and in this case, the laws intend good, and 
do that which is good, that is, they punish a malefactor ; but 
of the accidental damnation, the sinner that suffers only, is 
the only cause ; and therefore in this, and many like cases of 
public transaction, there is no evil done for a good end. 
Thus, if any man who is to take an oath, be wicked and 
false, the law may exact the oath because that is good, but 
the law itself may use a false oath if the man will swear it, 
but then the falseness is the man's that swears, not the law 
that exacts it. For to many products there are many con- 


current causes, which are not integral, but have each their 
share ; and when causes are not integral, the portion of 
effect is to be applied only by intention of the agent, and the 
proportion and order to the end : indeed, if the whole effect 
were to be imputed entirely to every concurring agent (as in 
murder, every man is principal and integral), then, in many of 
the fore-alleged cases, evil were done for a good end ; but 
then it could not be lawful so to do : but the actions are 
therefore innocent to some agents, because they do nothing of 
it but the good share, that which they ought to do ; and that 
which spoils it, comes in at another door. 

6. Some laws of God are such that their rectitude is so 
perfect, the holiness so entire, the usefulness so universal, 
the instance so fitted for all cases, and the economy of it so 
handsome and wise that it never interferes with any other 
duty, is never complicated with contradicting matter, or 
cross interests ; now these are such which no case can alter, 
which no man may prevaricate, or, if they do, they are such 
which no measure can extenuate, which no end can sanctify ; 
and these are either laws of general reason, and common 
sanction ; or spiritual instances, and abstracted from matter. 
Thus no man may blaspheme God at any time, or for any 
end, or in any degree ; and in these cases it was rightly said 
in the objections, that if the end can change the instrument, 
then it is not evil to do any thing for a good end, because 
the end makes the evil to be good. But then in other cases, 
where the instances are material, tied up with the accidents 
of chance, made changeable by relations, tied in several 
parts by several duties, filled with various capacities, there 
the good and the evil are like colours of a dove's neck, 
differing by several aspects and postures ; there abstractions 
are to be made, and separations of part from part, of capacity 
from capacity ; and when every man provides concerning his 
share of influence into the effect, all is well, and if one fails, 
it may be evil is done to the whole production ; but it is not 
imputed to them who took care of their own proportions. 
But in such kinds of actions, the limits and measures are 
extrinsical and accidental, and the goodness is not essential, 
natural, and original ; and, therefore, the whole receives 
variety by necessities, and by charity. For whatsoever can 
be necessary by a necessity of God's making, that is lawful : 


and I may serve any greater necessity by any thing that is 
less necessary, when both necessities cannot be served. 
Thus David's eating the shevv-bread, and the apostles' eating 
corn on the Sabbath, served a greater need than could have 
been secured by superstitious or importunate abstinence. In 
positive and temporary commands there is no obligation but 
when they consist with higher duties ; " Actus imperati unius 
virtutis non debent prsejudicare actibus elicitis alterius." The 
proper and natural actions of one virtue are ever to be pre- 
ferred before the instrumental acts of another. As an act of 
temperance must be preferred before a posture in worship- 
ping ; charity, before fasting or before ceremonies : that is, 
the more necessary, before the less. It is more necessary to 
save the life of a man, than to say my prayers at any one 
time, and therefore I may leave my prayers in the midst, and 
run to save a man from drowning. This is a thing which 
cannot stay, the other can. For in all such precepts of 
affirmative duty, there is a secret condition annexed, and 
they oblige not when they cross a negative. And it is 
certain there could be no usefulness of knowing the degrees 
of good or evil, if it were not for prelation and election of 
one before another. To what purpose were it that we are 
told, " Obedience is better than sacrifice," but that we 
should neglect one and do the other, when both cannot 
stand together ? And this order of degrees is the full ground 
of dispensations, when they can be allowed in Divine com- 
mandments : but in human dispensations there is another, 
even the want of foresight, the imperfection of the laws 
themselves which cannot provide for all cases beforehand, 
as God's laws can ; and therefore, to dispense with a subject 
in a human law is not a doing evil for a good end, for to 
break a human law is not intrinsically an evil, though no 
express leave be given, as the case may happen : but when 
leave is given, as it is in dispensations, then there is no evil 
at all. And something like this is that other case of pre- 
scriptions, which does indeed transfer a right from a right 
owner, as it may happen ; but this is a doing good and not 
evil, for it is a preferring a certain possession before an 
uncertain right ; or it is a doing a greater good, that is, a 
prelation of a title which hath more evidence and public 
advantage than the other. Besides, it is done by public 


consent, in which because every particular is included, there 
is no evil done, but much is prevented. 

7. In actions the material part is to be distinguished 
from the formality, the work from the affection : that may 
be wholly indifferent, when this may be wholly criminal. 
He that drinks till he vomits, by the physician's advice, 
gives none of his affection to the pleasure of any thing 
forbidden ; he takes it as he takes a potion or pills, which 
may have the same effect with drink. But when the material 
part cannot be done without the sense of pleasure which is 
forbidden, then the end cannot sanctify it ; and therefore, 
although to drink much for physic may be lawful, yet pollu- 
tion may not be desired for health, because that cannot be 
done or suffered without an unlawful pleasure ; and so also 
will drinking for health become vicious, if, in the acting of 
the material part, any part of our affections be stolen away, 
and the pleasure of the excess be delighted in. 

8. He that makes use of the matter of a sin already 
prepared to which he gives no consent, and which he cannot 
help, does not do evil for a good end. Thus the prophet 
called on the priests of Baal to do what they used to do, that 
they might never do so again ; he was no way the cause of a 
sin, but of its circumstances and adjuncts, that it be done 
here and now, and this is not against the apostle's rule : time 
and place are no sins, and make none, unless frequency be 
added to the time, and holiness to a place, and then they 
may add degrees or new instances to the sin ; but when 
neither of these is procured or injured respectively, it is 
lawful to glorify God by using the prepared sin to good 
purposes. When a judge is ready to receive money upon 
any terms, out of this evil we may bring good, and cause 
him to do a good thing rather than a bad ; he does neither 
well, but that is his own fault ; but to give money is a thing 
indifferent, and to give it for that end which is good, makes 
it better : and bribery is a word of an ill sound when it 
means an evil thing, but when it means well we may find a 
better word for it, or mean well by this : though concerning 
the particular, it is not amongst men esteemed certain that it 
is lawful to give money to a judge : " Sed si dedi," says 
Ulpian, " ut secundum me in bona causa judexpronunciaret, 
est quidem relatum condictioni locum esse : sed hie quoque 


crimen contrahit. Judicera enim corrumpere videtur : et non 
ita pridem imperator noster constituit litem eum perdere." 
Whether it be lawful or no is to be inquired in another 
place ; but as to the present inquiry, if it be lawful, I have 
accounted for it already; if it be not, it is not to be done, 
no, not for justice sake. For in this case we no way consent 
to the evil, but endeavour to bring good out of that evil 
which is already in being. Thus we run to a tyrant power 
for justice, he will govern whether we will or no, the sin will 
be acted and continued upon his own account ; but when the 
evil matter is thus made ready, we may reap as much good 
by it as we can bring out of it ; and in this sense is that true 
and applicable to the present which is urged in the objection, 
that as truth may come from falsehood, so may evil from 
good ; when an ill-gotten power is apt either to justice or 
injustice, we may draw justice from it, and then we do good 
without co-operating to the evil : that is, we only do deter- 
mine an indifferent agent to the better part. The manner of 
getting the power is wholly extrinsical to the ministration of 
it : that is wholly the fault of the usurper, but this which is 
our own act, is wholly innocent. If Nero sets Rome on fire, 
I do no hurt if I warm by the heat, and walk by the light of 
it ; but if I laugh at the flames, or give a fagot to it, I am 
guilty. And thus the Christians use the heathens' oaths for 
their own security ; the oath is good, and so far it is desired ; 
that the oath is by a false god, is the heathens' fault ; this 
is effected by these, but the other is only desired by them. 
This, therefore, is not a doing evil for a good end ; it is a 
desiring of good, and a using the evil matter which is of 
another's procuring. 

9. There are some actions criminal and forbidden in 
certain states only, as to kill a man is a sin, a private man 
may not do it ; but the same man, when he comes to be a 
public magistrate, may do it. A private man also may not 
do it, when he is in the relation and protection of civil 
society, because in that, the laws are his guards, and the 
public judges are his defensatives ; but if a man sets on me 
by violence, and so puts himself into a state of war, he, by 
going from the limits of civil society, takes off the restraint 
which that society put upon me, and I am returned to the 
liberties of nature ; and there is by all laws a power given a 


man to defend himself, by laws, if he can, and if he cannot, 
then by himself and the means of nature ; and, therefore, to 
kill him that would kill me, is not to do evil for a good end, 
for the thing is permitted, and therefore not intrinsically evil, 
and whatsoever is not so, may be accidentally good. 

10. Some of the instances are such which are disallowed 
by most men ; so to tell a lie for a good end is unlawful, 
upon supposition that a lie is intrinsically evil ; concerning 
which the account must be reserved for its own place : for 
the present, it is certainly unlawful to lie for any end, if that 
supposition be true ; but if lying be only forbidden for its 
uncharitableness or injustice, that is, for its effects, then 
when the end is good, the instrument is tolerable. By these 
measures all the instances objected can be measured and 
secured, and by these the rule itself must be conducted. 
What cannot be excused upon one of these, is wholly to be 
reproved, as being a direct prevaricating the apostle's rule. 

The sum is this: Whatsoever is forbidden by the law 
under which we stand, and, being weighed by its own 
measures, is found evil ; that is, in a matter certainly for- 
bidden, not for any outward and accidental reason, but for 
its natural or essential contrariety to reason and the law of 
God, that may not be done, or procured for any end what- 
soever. For every such thing is intrinsically and essentially 
evil, it is evil without change or variety, without condition 
or circumstance, and therefore cannot be made good by any 
such thing. What is evil in some circumstances may be 
good in others ; and what is condemned for a bad effect, by a 
good one may be hallowed ; but if it be bad of itself, it can 
never be good, till there come a cause as great to change its 
nature, as to make it : the cruelty of a man's habit or his 
choice can be turned, but a viper will for ever have a venom 
in his tooth. 

But this rule is also to be extended to cases that are 
duplicate, and relate to two persons. As if two persons 
affirm or promise contraries ; the first upon a presumptive 
power and authority over the other, and this other upon 
firm resolution, and by an entire power over him or herself; 
though I am bound to hinder his promise from passing into 
fallacy and deception as much as I can, yet I must rather 
secure my own. The reason is, because he who had no 


power over me, could not promise but with a tacit condition ; 
and though he were guilty of temerity and an interpretative 
breach of promise, yet if the other fails, he is directly and 
properly guilty. This is still more evident if a father pro- 
mises his daughter to Titius before witnesses, presuming that 
his daughter, who is a widow, will yet be ruled by him, 
though she be at her own dispose ; but his daughter hath 
solemnly sworn and contracted herself to Sempronius. The 
daughter must be more careful not to break her oath and 
contract, than, by verifying her father's promise, keep him 
from a lie ; and this was the case of Acontius and Cydippe 
in Ovid, c 

Promisit pater bane ; haec adjuravit amanti. 

Hie homines, haec est testificata deain. 
Hie metuit meudax, timet haec perjura vocari. 

Nuin dubites, bic sit major, an ille metus? 

This case may be varied by accidents intervening, as if the 
daughter be under her father's power, she hath none of her 
own to contract or swear ; but in an equal power and circum- 
stances, the greater care must be to avoid the greater crime. 
These cautions are all which I think necessary for the 
conducting of a doubting conscience (that is, a conscience 
undetermined) in its danger and infirmity : but concerning 
the matter of doubts, that is, indeed, all cases of conscience, 
they are to be handled under their proper matter. Con- 
cerning interpretation of doubts to the better part, obedience 
to superiors in a doubtful matter, favourable and easy inter- 
pretation of laws for the deposition of a doubt, though I was 
tempted to have given accounts in this place, yet I have 
chosen to refer them to their own places, where by the 
method and rules of art they ought to stand, and where the 
reader will expect them. But concerning the cure of a 
doubting conscience, this is all that I am to add to the 

o * 

foregoing rules : 

A doubtful conscience is no guide of human actions, but 
a disease ; and is to be cured by prayer and prudent advices, 
and the proper instruments of resolution and reasonable 
determinations; but for those things which are called doubts, 
and the resolution of which is the best way to cure the 

' Heroid. ep. xx. 159. Mitscherl. vol. i. p. 114. 


infirmity of conscience, they must be derived from their 
several heads and categories. For these discourses or ad- 
vices of conscience in general, are intended but as directions 
how to take our physic, and what order to observe * in 
diebus custodies ;' but the determining of the several doubts, 
is like preparing and administering the medicines which 
consist of very many ingredients. 




A Scruple is a great Trouble of Mind proceeding from a little 
Motive, and a great Indisposition, by which the Conscience, 
though sufficiently determined by proper Arguments, dares 
not proceed to Action, or if it do, it cannot rest. 

" Qui nimis emungit, elicit sanguinem," said Solomon ; a 
" Too violent blowing draws blood from the nose :" that is, an 
inquiry after determination, and searching into little corners, 
and measuring actions by atoms and unnatural measures, 
and being over righteous, is the way not to govern, but 
to disorder our conscience. 

That it is a great trouble, is a daily experiment and a 
sad sight : some persons dare not eat for fear of gluttony, 
they fear that they shall sleep too much; and that keeps 
them waking, and troubles their heads more, and then their 
scruples increase. If they be single persons, they fear that 
every temptation is a vvgusig, that 'burning' which the 
apostle so carefully would have us to avoid, and then that it 
is better to marry than to suffer it ; and if they think to 
marry, they dare not for fear they be accounted neglecters of 
the glory of God, which, they think, is better promoted by 
not touching a woman. When they are married they are 
afraid to do their duty, for fear it be secretly an indulgence 

* Prov. xxviii. 


to the flesh, and be suspected of carnality ; and yet they 
dare not omit it, for fear they should be unjust ; and yet 
they fear that the very fearing it to be unclean should be a 
sin, and suspect that if they do not fear so, it is too great a 
sign they adhere to nature more than to the Spirit. They 
repent when they have not sinned, and accuse themselves 
without form or matter ; their virtues make them tremble, 
and in their innocence they are afraid ; they at no hand 
would sin, and know not on which hand to avoid it: and 
if they venture in, as the flying Persians over the river 
Strymon, the ice will not bear them, or they cannot stand 
for slipping, and think every step a danger, and every pro- 
gression a crime, and believe themselves drowned when they 
are yet ashore. 

' Scruple ' sometimes signifies all manner of vexation of 
the mind; so Cicero b uses it, " Hunc mihi scrupulum ex 
animo evelle, qui me dies noctesque stimulat ac pungit ; 
Take this scruple out of my mind, which pricks and goads 
me night and day." So also in St. Jerome's Bible ; c " Non 
erit tibi in singultum et scrupulum cordis, quod effuderis 
sanguinem innoxium ; It shall not be to thee a cause 
of grief and scruple of heart, that thou hast shed inno- 
cent blood." But in the present discourse it hath a more 
limited signification, and, according to the use of divines and 
canonists, means an unquietness and restlessness of mind in 
things done or to be done, after the doubts of conscience are 
determined and ended. " Intolerabilem perturbationem," 
Seneca calls it; a fear of doing every thing that is innocent, 
and an aptness to do every thing that can be suggested : 

. Nuda ac tremebunda cruentia 
Erepet genibus. Si Candida j usserit lo, 
Ibit, &c. d 

Scruple is a little stone in the foot ; if you set it upon the 
ground, it hurts you ; if you hold it up, you cannot go for- 
ward ; it is a trouble where the trouble is over, a doubt when 
doubts are resolved ; it is a little party behind a hedge, when 
the main army is broken and the field cleared : and when the 

b Pro Roscio, c. ii. Beck, vol. i. p. 42. c Reg. 25. 

d Juven. vi. 525. Ruperti. 


conscience is instructed in its way, and girt for action, a 
light trifling reason, or an absurd fear, hinders it from begin- 
ing the journey, or proceeding in the way, or resting at the 
journey's end. 

Very often it hath no reason at all for its inducement, 
but proceeds from indisposition of body, pusillanimity, melan- 
choly, a troubled head, sleepless nights, the society of the 
timorous, from solitariness, ignorance, or unseasoned impru- 
dent notices of things, indigested learning, strong fancy and 
weak judgment ; from any thing that may abuse the reason 
into irresolution and restlessness. It is indeed a direct 
walking in the dark, where we see nothing to affright us, 
but we fancy many things ; and the phantasms produced in 
the lower regions of fancy, and nursed by folly, and borne 
upon the arms of fear, do trouble us. 

But if reason be its parent, then it is born in the twi- 
light, and the mother is so little that the daughter is a fly 
with a short head and a long sting, enough to trouble a wise 
man, but not enough to satisfy the appetite of a little bird. 
The reason of a scruple is ever as obscure as the light of a 
glowworm, not fit to govern any action, and yet is suffered 
to stand in the midst of all its enemies, and, like the flies of 
Egypt, vex and trouble the whole army. 

This disease is most frequent in women and monastic 
persons, in the sickly and timorous, and is often procured by 
excess in religious exercises, in austerities and disciplines, 
indiscreet fastings and pernoctations in prayer, multitude of 
human laws, variety of opinions, the impertinent talk and 
writings of men that are busily idle : the enemy of mankind 
by the weaknesses of the body and understanding enervating 
the strengths of the spirit, and making religion strike itself 
upon the face by the palsies and weak tremblings of its 
own fingers. 

William of Oseney was a devout man, and read two or 
three books of religion and devotion very often ; and being 
pleased with the entertainment of his time, resolved to spend 
so many hours every day in reading them, as he had read 
over those books several times ; that is, three hours every 
day. In a short time he had read over the books three times 
more, and began to think that his resolution might be 


expounded to signify in a current sense, and that it was to 
be extended to the future times of his reading, and that now 
he was to spend six hours every day in reading those books, 
because he had now read them over six times. He presently 
considered, that in half so long time more by the proportion 
of this scruple he must be tied to twelve hours every day, 
and therefore that this scruple was unreasonable ; that he 
intended no such thing, when he made his resolution, and 
therefore that he could not be tied : he knew that a resolu- 
tion does not bind a man's self in things whose reason does 
vary, and where our liberty is entire, and where no interest 
of a third person is concerned. He was sure, that this 
scruple would make that sense of the resolution be impos- 
sible at last, and all the way vexatious and intolerable ; he 
had no leisure to actuate this sense of the words, and by 
higher obligations he was faster tied to other duties: he 
remembered also that now the profit of those good books 
was received already and grew less, and now became changed 
into a trouble and an inconvenience, and he was sure he 
could employ his time better ; and yet, after all this heap of 
prudent and religious considerations, his thoughts revolved 
in a restless circle, and made him fear he knew not what. 
He was sure he was not obliged, and yet durst not trust it : 
he knew his rule, and had light enough to walk by it, but 
was as fearful to walk in the day as children are in the night. 
Well, being weary of his trouble, he tells his story, receives 
advice to proceed according to the sense of his reason, not 
to the murmurs of his scruple; he applies himself accord- 
ingly. But then he enters into new fears ; for he rests in 
this that he is not obliged to multiply his readings, but 
begins to think that he must do some equal good thing in 
commutation of the duty, for though that particular instance 
become intolerable and impossible, yet he tied himself to 
perform that which he believed to be a good thing, and 
though he was deceived in the particular, yet he was right 
in the general, and therefore that for the particular he must 
make an exchange. He does so; but as he is doing it, he 
starts, and begins to think that every commutation being 
intended for ease, is in some sense or other a lessening of 
his duty, a diminution of his spiritual interest, and a note of 


infirmity; and then also fears, that in judging concerning 
the matter of his commutation he shall be remiss and partial. 
Now he considers that he ought to consult with his superiors ; 
and as he is going to do so, he begins to think that his 
superior did once chide him for his scruple, and that now 
much more he will do it, and therefore will rather seek to 
abolish the opinion of obligation than change it into another 
burden ; and since he knows this beforehand, he fears lest 
it shall be expounded to be in him an artifice to get himself 
eased or chidden out of his duty, and cozened from his obli- 
gation. What shall the man do ? He dares not trust himself; 
and if he goes to another, he thinks that this will the more 
condemn him ; he suspects himself, but this other renders 
him justly to be suspected by himself and others too. Well, 
he goes to God and prays him to direct him ; but then he 
considers that God's graces are given to us working together 
with God's Spirit, and he fears the work will not be done for 
him because he fails in his own part of co-operating ; and 
concerning this he thinks he hath no scruple, but certain 
causes of fear. After a great tumbling of thoughts and 
sorrows, he begins to believe that this scrupulousness of 
conscience is a temptation, and a punishment of his sins : 
and then he heaps up all that he ever did, and all that he 
did not, and all that he might have done, and seeking for 
remedy grows infinitely worse, till God at last, pitying the 
innocence and trouble of the man, made the evil to sink 
down with its own weight, and like a sorrow that breaks 
the sleep, at last growing big, loads the spirits, and bringing 
back the sleep that it had driven away, cures itself by the 
greatness of its own affliction. In this case, the religion is 
not so great as the affliction. 

But because a scruple is a fear, or a light reason against 
a stronger and a sufficiently determined understanding, it 
can bring no other work to the conscience, but that it get 
itself eased of the trouble, which is to be done by the 
following rules. 



A Conscience, sufficiently instructed by its proper Arguments of 
Persuasion, may, without Sin, proceed to Action against the 
Scruple and its weaker Arguings or stronger Tremblings. 

THIS is the best remedy that is in nature and reason. St. 
Bernard preached rarely well, and was applauded ; but the 
devil, offering to him the temptation of vainglory, he, in his 
resisting it, began to think that he had better leave off to 
preach than begin to be proud ; but instantly the Holy 
Spirit of God discovered to him the deception, and the 
devil's artifice, who would, at any rate, have him leave off to 
preach ; and he answered, ' I neither began for thee, nor for 
theewill i leave off.' This is a right course in the matter of 
scruple ; proceed to action ; and as the reason or the fear in 
the scruple was not inducement enough to begin, so neither 
to leave off. 

Against a doubting conscience a man may not work, but 
against a scrupulous he may. For a scrupulous conscience 
does not take away the proper determination of the under- 
standing ; but it is like a woman handling of a frog or a 
chicken, which, all their friends tell them, can do them no 
hurt, and they are convinced in reason that they cannot, 
they believe it arid know it ; and yet when they take the 
little creature into their hands, they shriek, and sometimes 
hold fast, and find their fears confuted, and sometimes they 
let go, and find their reason useless. 

Valerius, of Hippo, being used always to fast till high 
noon of festivals, falls into an illness of stomach, and is 
advised to eat something in the morning ; all the reason of 
the world that is considerable and pressing, tells him he may 
do it lawfully, but because he hath not been used to it, and 
good people in health do not do it, he is fearful to do that 
which others do not, that need it not; this is a slight ground, 
and with it perfectly may stand his practical determination 
of conscience, that it is lawful for him ; which final deter- 
mination, because it is the next and immediate rule ofactions, 
cannot be impeded by that which suffers this persuasion still 
to remain, because the doing only against such a persua- 



sion can only be a sin ; for that only is the transgression of 
the immediate law : to do conformably to such determination 
is to do it with faith ; and if the scruple can lessen it, yet it 
only makes the man the weaker, but cannot destroy the 

Add to this, that since scruples do sometimes make men 
mad, do detriment to our health, make religion a burden, 
introduce a weariness of spirit and tediousness, it cannot 
be a sin to stop all this evil, and directly to throw away the 
scruple, and proceed to contrary actions. 

But this is to be understood only, when the scruple is 
such that it leaves the conscience practically determined. 
For if the scruple prevails upon his weakness so far as to 
rifle the better reasons, the conscience loses its rule and its 
security, and the scruple passes into a doubt, and the law 
into a consultation, and the judgment into opinion, and the 
conscience into an undiscerning, undetermined faculty. 

Hither is to be reduced the case of a perplexed con- 
science ; that is, when men think that which part soever of 
the contradiction they choose, they sin ; for though that be 
impossible to wise men, yet all men are not wise ; and if it 
were impossible in the thing, yet it is certainly possible upon 
the distempers of some men : and because a man hath con- 
trary reasonings and divided principles within, as our blessed 
Lord had a natural desire not to die, and yet a reasonable 
and a holy spiritual desire to submit to his Father's will, and, 
if he please, to die ; so hath every man desires to please 
an appetite, or secure an interest of secular designs, and a 
reason to serve the interest of his spirit in spiritual designs : 
but although, in our blessed Lord, the appetites of nature 
were innocent and obedient, and the spirit always got a clear 
victory, and the flesh resisted not, yet in us it is not so : and 
sometimes spiritual complications do disturb the question, 
and make the temporal end seem religious or pious ; and the 
contrary pretence is pious too, and yet a duty will be omitted 
which way soever be chosen, or a sin committed as is sup- 
posed : here the case seems hard. It is certain that there is 
no such case in the world, that it is necessary for a man to 
sin which part soever he takes, and unless it be his own 
fault he cannot think so ; but some men are wild in their 
reasonings, and err in circles, and cannot untie the knot 


themselves have knit. Some are weary, and many are in- 
volved, and more are foolish ; and it is as possible for a man 
to be a fool in one proposition as in another, and, therefore, 
his error may be this, that l which part soever he chooses, he 
shall sin ;' what is to be done here ? is the question. 

The case is this : Pratinus, a Roman soldier, turns Chris- 
tian, and having taken his military sacrament before, and 
still continuing the employment, he is commanded to put to 
death certain criminals, which he undertakes, because he is 
bound to it by his oath. Going to the execution he finds they 
were condemned for being Christians ; then he starts, re- 
membering his sacrament or oath on one side, and his faith 
on the other ; that is, his religion on both ; by which he is 
bound neither to be perjured, nor to kill his brethren: the 
question is not how he might expedite his doubt, and secure 
his conscience by choosing the surer part, but what he is to 
do, this perplexity remaining, that is, he not being able to 
lay aside either part of the doubt ; for 1 is question is not 
whether of Lie two he shall do, but is persuaded that to do 
either is a high crime. 

1. Concerning this, it is evident, that if the cases be equal, 
and the event not to be distinguished by him in the greatness 
of its consequent or malice of it, it is indifferent to him 
which he chooses ; and, therefore, there can be no rule given, 
which he must take, unless he could be convinced of one 
that it is lawful, and the other unlawful ; but in this case 
that not being to be done, he ought to know, that, in this 
case, he sihs not if he takes either, because all sin is with 
liberty and choice, at least with complacency : but his error 
is an infelicity and no sin, if he neither chooses it nor 
delights in it, which in the present case he is supposed not 
to do. 

2. But if, in the event of the actions and parts of choice, 
there be a real or apprehended difference, he is bound to 
choose that part which he believes to be the less sin, this 
being a justification of his will, the best that can be in the 
present case ; but if he chooses that which is of worse event, 
he hath nothing to excuse it. 



He that is troubled with Scruples, ought to rely upon the 
Judgment of a prudent Guide. 

THE reason is, because his own understanding is troubled 
and restless, and yet his reason determined ; and, therefore, 
he can but use the best way of cure, which, in his particular, 
is to follow an understanding that is equally determined as is 
his own, and yet not so diseased. 

Add to this, that God hath appointed spiritual persons, 
guides of souls, whose office is to direct and comfort, to 
give peace and conduct, to refresh the weary and to 
strengthen the weak, to confirm the strong and instruct the 
doubtful ; and, therefore, to use their advice is that proper 
remedy which God hath appointed. And it hath also in 
it this advantage, that there is in it humility of understand- 
ing, a not relying on our own wisdom, which, by way of 
blessing and disposition, will obtain of God that we be 
directed, " Consule bonos, prudentesque viros, et acquiesce 
eis," a was an old advice, and derived from Solomon and 
Tobit ; "Lean not on thy own understanding," but ask 
counsel of all that are wise, and despise not any counsel that 
is profitable. 


When a Doubt is resolved in the Entrance of an Action, we 
must judge of our Action afterwards by the same Measures 
as before : for lie that changes his Measures, turns his 
Doubt into a Scruple. 

THE reason of the rule is this : That which is sufficient for 
satisfaction before, is sufficient for peace afterwards. A 
Christian, in the diocese of Salamis, being faint in his 
stomach before the reception of the holy sacrament, disputes 

* Autumn, in sum. 1, p. tit. 3, c. 10. 


whether he may take a cordial or a glass of wine. Upon 
inquiry, he is told, that to receive the holy sacrament ' vir- 
gine saliva, fasting,' is a custom of the Cliurch later than 
the times of the apostles, as appears by the Corinthian usages 
mentioned by St. Paul ; that it having no authority but 
custom, no sanction but a pious fancy, and a little proportion 
and analogy of reverence, it ought to yield to the elicit acts 
of charity : upon this account he, being satisfied, drinks a 
little, is well, and communicates with health, and joy, and 
holiness. But afterwards, reflecting upon what he had done, 
he begins to fear he had not done well ; that he had done 
against the customs of the Church, that it was at least in- 
firmity in him, and upon what account with God that should 
be, which, in his own most gentle sentence, was, at least, 
infirmity, he knew not : and twenty other little things he 
thought of, which signified nothing, but did something, they 
meant no good, but did great evil : and finding himself got 
into a net, he calls for help, hut is told that he must get out 
of it by the same way that he came in, and that which was 
the sufficient cause of his doing the action, was sufficient 
also for the justification of it, and let him confront the 
reasons which introduced the action against these flies and 
little pretensions which disturb his mind, and he shall find 
that he hath reason to be ashamed of debauching and prosti- 
tuting his understanding to such trifles and images of argu- 
ment : for let a man look to his grounds when he begins to 
act, and, when he hath acted, let him remember that he did 
his duty, and give God thanks. For if any just cause appear 
for which he ought to reprove his former determination, that 
just cause can have no influence upon what is past, if the 
first proceeding was probable, and reasonable, and disinterest. 
He knows something which he did not know before ; and, for 
the time to come, is to walk by this newly kindled taper ; 
but if he, in the first instance, walked by all the light he 
had, he is not tied to walk it over again : for as God will 
not, of a child, exact the prudence and cautions of a man, 
but in every age expects a duty answerable to the abilities 
of it ; so it is in all the stages of our reason and growing 
understanding. According to what we have, and not 
according to what we have not, we shall give accounts. This 


is intended to prove, that, if we proceed probably, we are not 
tied to sorrow and repentance, though afterwards we find a 
greater reason to the contrary ; but this concludes more in 
the present question of scruple, in which the greater proba- 
bility goes before, and the less comes after. 

But the rule is to be managed with these cautions : 

1. Take heed, that, in the beginning, we do not mistake 
our desires to have it done, for a sufficient warrant that it 
may. For if we enter in at a wrong door, or at the windows, 
we must go back, and cannot own that entrance which was 
like a thief, or that action which was done with more craft 
than prudence. 

2. Be not too easy in the arguments of probation. For 
although in actions concerning our eternal interest, God 
expects no more of us but that we should talk by the mea- 
sures of a man ; yet we do not perform our duty if we act by 
the measures of a child or a fool. If we could do no better, 
the action might be more reprovable than the man ; but if we 
could consider better and wiser than when we reflect after- 
n ards upon what we did before, and find a fault or a sin, 
a negligence or an avoidable error in the principle, we cannot 
from thence bring rest and confidence to our consciences. 

3. Separate your question as much as you can from 
interest, that your determination and inquiry be pure ; and 
if more arguments occur afterwards than did in the first 
inquiry, remember that it was well enough at first, if it was 
probable enough ; and for the rest, pray to God to accept 
you, if you did well and wisely, and to pardon you in what 
was done amiss, or negligently, or imperfectly. 


A scrupulous Conscience is to be cured by Remedies proper to 
the Disease, and Remedies proper to the Man. 

THAT is, there are some advices, which are directly in- 
tended for the lessening the scruple, and some others, 
which take away the scruple by curing the man, and taking 


off his distemperature. Those which are directly intended 
against the scruple, besides the rules before described, are 
these : 

Remedies against, the Scruple. 

1. Let the afflicted and disquiet man often meditate of 
the infinite goodness of God, and how his justice is equity, 
and his judgments are in mercy; that he judges us by what 
we heartily endeavour, but does not put our infelicities into 
our accounts of sins. 

2. Let him be instructed, that all laws, Divine and human, 
are desirous of sweet and merciful interpretations, and that 
of themselves they love to yield to necessity and to charity ; 
and that severity and exactness of measures is not only 
contrary to the goodness, but to the justice of God, who 
therefore will pity us because we are made of dust, and are 
a lump of folly and unavoidable infirmities ; and by the 
same justice by which God is eternally angry with the fallen 
angels, by the same justice he is not finally angry with man 
for his first follies, and pities all his unavoidable evils. 

3. Let it be remembered, that charity is the fulfilling the 
law, and by the degrees of it a man tends to perfection, and 
not by forms and tittles of the letter, and 'apices' of hand- 
writing or ordinances. And that if he loves God and does 
his best, and concerning the doing his best makes the same 
judgments real and material, that he does of the other ac- 
tions of his life, he certainly does all that can belong to 
him, and all that which can be wise and safe. He that acts 
according to the reason of a man, ought to have the con- 
fidences of a man ; for no other confidence can be reason- 
able. That is charity, that we do carefully and wisely, and 
follow the best we can. 

4. Let it be considered that to incline to the scruple, and 
neglect the stronger reason that stands against it, is to take 
the worse end, it is to do that which must seem worse; and 
then it may be remembered, that if the man is afraid and 
troubled with the trifle, with the scruple, when he hath 
stronger reason to secure him, if he yields to the scruple and 
neglects the stronger reason, the neglect of that will run 
upon him like a torrent and a whirlwind, and the scruple, 
or the bulrush, will not support his building. 


5. Since the very design of the evangelical covenant is, 
that our duty be demanded, and our sins accounted for, 
according to the measures of a man, and not by the pro- 
portions of an angel ; and that all our infirmities and igno- 
rances, and unavoidable prejudices, are taken into account, 
beside the infinite remissions on God's part, it will follow 
that, by this goodness of God, and a moral diligence, and a 
good heart, we are secured, but we can never be secured by 
our own measures. For let us weigh never so exactly, we 
may miss grains or scruples; but to snatch greedily at the 
little over-running dust of the balance, and to throw away the 
massive ingots that sunk the scales down, is the greatest 
folly in the world. 

6. The lines of duty are set down so clear and legible, 
are so agreeable to reason, so demonstrable upon their proper 
principles, are so easy and plain, that we need not run into 
corners, and sneaking by-lanes to find it out : if, by little 
undiscerned minutes, we were to stand or fall, though now 
there are but few that shall be saved, yet but a few of those 
few should escape eternal death. The counsels of God are 
not like the oracles of Apollo, double in their sense, in- 
tricate in their expression, secret in their meaning, deceit- 
ful in their measures, and otherwise in the event than they 
could be in their expectation. But the word of God, in 
the lines of duty, is open as the face of heaven, bright 
as the moon, healthful as the sun's influence ; and this is 
certainly true, that when a thing becomes obscure, though 
it may oblige us to a prudent search, yet it binds us not 
under a guilt, but only so far as it is or may be plainly 

But in the ease of a scrupulous conscience, it is not the 
thing so much that troubles the mind, as the indisposition of 
the part ; the man hath a vicious tenderness ; it is melan- 
choly and fear : and as every accident can trouble the mise- 
rable, so every fancy can affright the timorous ; the chiefest 
remedies, therefore, must be by applications to the man, to 
cure his distemper ; and then the scruple will work no more 
than its own activity will enable it, and that is but little 
and inconsiderable. 


Advices to the scrupulous Man. 

1. The case of the scrupulous man is full of variety, or 
uncertainty ; so that it is as easy to govern chance, and to 
give rules to contingency as to him. In all other cases 
there is a measure and a limit, and therefore a remedy can 
be proportioned to it ; but in this, fear is the disease, and 
that alone is infinite ; and as it commences oftentimes without 
cause, so it proceeds without limit. For by what reason it 
entered in, by the same it may grow ; that is, without any 
cause at all it may increase for ever. But for the remedy, 
this is considerable ; that the worse it is, the better it 
may be remedied, if we could consider. For when fear is 
grown so big that it is unreasonable, the cure is ready and 
plain, that it must be laid aside because it is intolerable, 
and it may because it is unreasonable. When it comes from 
a just cause, that just cause is usually the limit of it: but 
when it is vast and infinite, it hath no cause but weakness, 
and it appears enough in the instances ; for the scrupulous 
man fears concerning those things where he ought to be 
most confident; he fears that God is angry with him for 
not doing his duty, and yet he does whatsoever he can 
learn to be his duty. This is a complication of evils, as 
melancholy is of diseases. The scrupulous man is timorous, 
and sad, and uneasy, and he knows not why. As the me- 
lancholy man muses long, and to no purpose, he thinks 
much, but thinks of nothing ; so the scrupulous man fears 
exceedingly, but he knows not what nor why. It is a 
religious melancholy ; and when it appears to be a disease 
and a temptation, there need no more argument against its 
entertainment. We must rudely throw it away. 

2. He that is vexed with scruples, must fly to God 
by prayer and fasting, that this lunacy and spirit of illu- 
sion, which sometimes throws him into the fire, and some- 
times into the water, 3 may be ejected ; and the Spirit of God, 
and the Spirit of wisdom, 5 may come in substitution, 
according to the promise so often recorded in the Holy 

Mark, ix. 22. b James, i. 5. 


3. Let the scrupulous man change the tremblings of his 
spirits to a more considerable object, and be sure if he fears 
little things, let him fear great things greatly ; every known 
sin let him be sure to avoid, little or great ; for by this purity 
he shall seek God, and the things of God, peace and truth, 
and the honesty of his heart will bear him out from the mis- 
chief, if riot quit from the trouble of the scruple : at no hand 
let it be endured that he should think this disease or vicious 
tenderness in spirit is able to excuse him from his duty in 
greater things. Some scruple at an innocent ceremony, and 
against all conviction and armies of reason will be troubled 
and will not understand ; this is very bad ; but it is worse 
that he should think himself the more godly man for being 
thus troubled and diseased, and that, upon this account, 
he shall fall out with government and despise it ; this man 
nurses his scruple till it proves his death; and instead of 
curing a bile, dies with a cancer : and is like a man that 
hath strained his foot, and keeps his bed for ease ; but by 
lying there long falls into a lipothymy, and that bears him to 
his grave. 

4. Let the scrupulous man avoid all excess in mortifica- 
tions and corporal austerities, because these are apt to trouble 
the body, and, consequently, to disorder the mind, and by 
the prevailing fond persuasions of the world they usually pro- 
duce great opinions of sanctity and ignorant confidences of 
God's favour ; and, by spending the religion of the man in 
exterior significations, make him apt to take his measures 
from imperfect notices ; and then his religion shall be scruple 
and impertinence, full of trouble, but good and profitable for 
little or nothing, " Admiratione digna sunt," saith Cardan, 
"quae per jejunium hoc modo contingunt : somnia, super- 
stitio, contemptus tormentorum, mortis desiderium, obstinata 
opinio, insania : jejunium naturaliter praeparat ad hsec omnia ; 
It is wonderful to consider what strange products there are 
of fasting : dreams, superstition, contempt of torments, de- 
sire of death, obstinacy in opinion, and madness ; to all 
these fasting does naturally prepare us." And concerning 
St. Hilarion, it is reported by St. Jerome, d " Ita attenuatus fuit 

c De Rerum Yarietate, lib. viii. c, 10. d Epist. lib. iii. 


jejunio et vigiliis, in tan turn exeso corpora ut ossibus vix 
haerebat : uncle nocte infantum vagitus, balatus pecorum, 
mugitus bourn, voces et ludibria claernonuni," &c. " That he 
was so lean and dried with fasting and watching, that his 
flesh did scarce cleave to his bones: then his desires and 
capacity of sleep went away, and for want of sleep he must 
needs grow light-headed, and then the illusions of the devil 
were prepared and certain to prevail ; then his brains crowed, 
and he heard in the desert children crying, sheep bleating, 
bulls lowing, and rattling of chains, and all the fantastic 
noises raised by the devil." Much to the same purpose is, by 
St. Athanasius, reported of St. Anthony. It was this excess 
that made St. Jerome so scrupulous in reading of Tully's 
orations ; it was not an angel, but his own dreams that 
whipped him from making and reading good Latin and good 
sense. After long fasting it was that St. Gulslach, of Cro- 
wald, fought with the devil ; and such irregular austerities 
have been, in all ages of superstition, the great instrument of 
Satan, by which his illusions became oracles, and religion 
was changed into superstition, and the fear of God into 
timorousness, and inquiry into scruple. 

5. Let the scrupulous man interest himself in as few 
questions of intricate dispute, and minute disquisition, as he 
can : they that answer fewest, do commonly trouble them- 
selves with most. Curious questions may puzzle every man, 
but they can profit no man ; they are a certain disturbance, 
they are rebels in the kingdom of the inner man; they are 
just the same things in speculation which scruples are in 
practice, and therefore, because notice properly tends and 
directs to action, the increase of them will multiply these. 
Avoid them therefore ; for not these, but things practical, 
are the hinges of immortality ; but the other break the 
peace of the superior faculties, they trouble the under- 
standing, and afflict the conscience, and profit or instruct 
no man. 

6. He that would cure his scrupulousness, must take 
care that his religion be as near as he can to the measures 
and usages of common life. When St. Anthony was troubled 
with a scrupulous conscience, which so amazed him, that 
he thought it was impossible for him ever to arrive at heaven, 


an angel came to him in the likeness of a hermit, or rather 
a hermit spake to him like an angel, and said, " Nunc paulu- 
lum laborando man ibus, nunc genibus flexis orando, deinde 
corpus reficiendo, postquiescendo, et rursusiterum operando, 
Antoni, sic fac tu et salvus eris ; Sometimes labour with 
thy hands, then fall on thy knees and pray, then refresh thy 
body, then sometimes rest, and then labour again ; and so 
thou shall be saved." Let us take care that our religion be 
like our life, not done like pictures, taken when we are 
dressed curiously, but looking as the actions of our life are 
dressed, that is, so as things can be constantly done, that 
is, that it be dressed with the usual circumstances, imitating 
the examples, and following the usages of the best and the 
most prudent persons of his communion ; striving in nothing 
to be singular, not doing violence to any thing of nature, 
unless it be an instrument or a temptation to a vice. For 
some men mortify their natures rather than their vicious 
inclinations or their evil habits, and so make religion to 
be a burden, a snare, and an enemy. For in scrupulous, 
that is, in melancholy persons, nature is to be cherished 
in every thing where there is no danger, that is, where 
she is not petulant and troublesome. Such men have 
more need of something to repair their house than to 
lessen it. 

7. Let the scrupulous man take care, that he make no 
vows of any lasting employment. For the disease that is 
already within, and this new matter from without, will cer- 
tainly make new cases of conscience, and new fears and 
scruples upon the manner, and degrees, and circumstances 
of performance. Therefore, whatever good thing they in- 
tend, let them do it when they can, when it is pleasant, when 
it is convenient, and always reserve their liberty. For be- 
sides that to do otherwise must needs multiply scruples, it is 
also more pleasing to God, that we make our services to be 
every day chosen, than after one general choice of them, to 
have the particulars done and hated. 

8. But that I may sum up many particulars in one. The 
scrupulous man must avoid those companies, and those 
employments, and those books, from whence the clouds arise, 
especially the books of ineffective and fantastic notions, such 


as are legends of saints ridiculously and weakly invented, 
furnished out for ideas, not for actions of common life, with 
dreams and false propositions ; for the scrupulous and fearful 
will easily be troubled, if they find themselves fall short of 
those fine images of virtue which some men describe, that 
they might make a fine picture, but like nobody. Such 
also are the books of mystical theology, which have in them 
the most high, the most troublesome, and the most mys- 
terious nothings in the world, and little better than the 
effluxes of a religious madness. 

9. Let the scrupulous man endeavour to reduce his body 
into a fair temper, and enkindle in his mind a great love 
and high opinions of God and God's mercy, and by proper 
arts produce joy in God, and rejoicings in the Spirit ; let him 
pursue the purgative way of religion, fight against and extir- 
pate all vicious habits and evil customs, do the actions of 
virtue frequently and constantly, but without noise and out- 
cries, without affectation and singularity. That religion is 
best which is incorporated with the actions and common 
traverses of our life ; and as there will be some foolish 
actions, so there will be matter for repentance ; let this 
humble us, but not amaze us and distract us. 

10. Let all persons who are or use to be thus troubled with 
flies, and impertinences of reason and conscience, be care- 
fully and wisely instructed in those practical propositions 
which are the general lines of life, which are the axioms 
of Christian philosophy, which like the rules of law have 
great influence in many virtues, and have great effect to- 
wards perfection. For the more severe the rules are, the 
more apt they are to be the matter of scruple, when they are 
not understood in their just measures. Such as are, It is 
the part of a good mind to acknowledge a fault where 
there is none: Not to go forward is to go backward: 
He that loves danger shall perish in danger : Hold that 
which is certain, and let go that which is uncertain. 
There are many more, of which I am to give accounts in 
the next book, and from thence the scrupulous may derive 

Concerning the matter of scruples, I on purpose decline 
the considering of it here, because either every thing, or 


nothing of it, is to be handled. A scruple may arise in 
the doing of every duty, in the remembrance of every 
action ; and to stop one gap, when the evil may enter in 
at five hundred, 1 did suppose not to be worth my labour. 
I, therefore, reserve every thing to its own place, being 
content here to give the measures and rules of conscience 
in its several kinds and differing affections, that is, in all 
its proper capacities which can relate to action. 










The Law of Nature is the universal Law of the World, or the 
Law of Mankind, concerning common Necessities to which 
we are inclined by Nature, invited by Consent, prompted by 
Reason, but is bound upon us only by the Command of God. 

b ocpdahfAuv yivufativ n vopog, <pvff/, xctl TI r& r%$ 
g, said the Apostolical Constitution ; a " Be careful to 
understand what is the law natural, and what is superinduced 
upon it." The counsel, abating the authority and reverence of 
them that said it, is of great reasonableness. For all men 
talk of the law of nature, and all agree that there is such 
a material law which some way or other is of the highest 
obligation ; but because there are no digests or tables of this 

* Constit. Apost. lib. i. c. 6. 


law, men have not only differed about the number of them, 
and the instances themselves, but about the manner of draw- 
ing them forth, and making the observation : whereas if the 
law of nature were such a thing as it is supposed generally, 
these differences would be as strange and impossible, as that 
men should disagree about what is black or what is yellow, 
or that they should dispute concerning rules to signify when 
they desire, or when they hope, or when they love. The 
purpose of the present intendment will not suffer me to make 
large disputes about it, but to observe all that is to be drawn 
from it in order to conscience, and its obligation. 

The Law of Nature. 

' Jus naturae,' and ' lex naturae,' are usually confounded 
by divines and lawyers, but to very ill purposes, and to the 
confusion and indistinction of all the notices of them. " The 
right of nature, or 'jus naturae,' is no law, and the law of 
nature is no natural right." b The right of nature is a perfect 
and universal liberty to do whatsoever can secure me or 
please me. For the appetites that are prime, original, and 
natural, do design us towards their satisfaction, and were a 
continual torment, and in vain, if they were not in order to 
their rest, contentedness, and perfection. Whatsoever we 
naturally desire, naturally we are permitted to. For natures 
are equal, and the capacities are the same, and the desires 
alike ; and it were a contradiction to say, that naturally we 
are restrained from any thing to which we naturally tend. 
Therefore, to save my own life, I can kill another, or twenty, 
or a hundred, or take from his hands to please myself, if it 
happens in my circumstances and power ; and so for eating, 
and drinking, and pleasures. If I can desire, I may possess 
or enjoy it : this is the right of nature. ' Jus naturae,' by 
'jus,' or ' right,' understanding not a collated or legal right, 
positive or determined, but a negative right, that is, such 
a right as every man hath without a law, and such as that 
by which the stones in the streets are mine or yours ; by 
a right that is negative, because they are ' nullius in bonis,' 
they are ' appropriate to no man,' and may be mine ; that is, 
I may take them up and carry them to my bed of turf, where 

b Valla Elegant lib. iv. c. 48. 


the natural, wild, or untutored man does sit. But this is not 
the law of nature, nor passes any obligation at all. 
And indeed nature herself makes not a law : 

Nee natura potest justo secernere iniquum : 

and this opinion Carneades did express, but rudely, and was 
for it noted by Lactantins. He said there was no law of 
nature. But the Christians, who for many ages have fol- 
lowed the school of Aristotle, have been tender in suffering 
such expressions, and have been great promoters of Aristotle's 
doctrine concerning the 7-6 pusixov, ' the natural law.' But 
indeed Aristotle himself in this was various and indetermined. 
For in his Ethics c he affirms, that some think the natural lavr 
to be rb /ASV pvati, axiv^rov xai cravra^our^v alrqv e^/it dwa/j,iv' uffxtg 
TO X-JP xai tvQddt xai ev tt'tggais xatu, " unalterable, and of the 
same force every where, as fire burns here and in Persia:" 
and yet he himself makes it mutable, and that is not the 
same among all nations ; for so he in his Rhetorics' 1 says, 
eari "/ao, o pam^dlfttf TI cavrej, tpv<fn xoivbv InutM* xai cidixov, x<pi> 
fj,r,dt,uia xoivuvia crsog dXX^Xou; f, pr^Bs evvd^xri, that " some do 
divine" (not demonstrate) "that some things are just or unjust 
by nature, without any covenant or society;" intimating, that 
without a covenant or contract, tacit or explicit, there can 
be no law : and if it depends upon contract, it must be 
variable as necessity and contingency together ; and so he 
affirms, that there is nothing so naturally just but it is 
variable ; and although the right hand is in most men the 
strongest, yet in some the left hand is. Tb diavtprtnxov dir.aiov 
run xoivuv asi xar avaXoyiav isri rr t v tigiyunp'* " Distributive 
justice is by proportion;" and, therefore, it is variable; and 
in general he affirms of all justice, TO ds dlxxiov avdXoyov, 
"justice is in proportion and relation." 

For justice is a7.7.6rsiov uyadbv, that is, vabg ingov, a rela- 
tive excellence, and, therefore, must suppose society, and 
a paction or covenant. For " a man cannot be unjust 
to himself," or to his own goods, which are absolutely 
in his power : f ovx tffnv adix/a vgb$ ai/roV and, therefore, 

c Lib. v. c. 7. Wilkiuson, p. 209. d Lib. i. C. 14. Howell, p. 60. 

Ethi c. lib. v. c. 4. Wilkinson, p. 193. r Ethic, lib. v. 


justice, I mean that universal virtue that contains all else 
within it, 

'E Ji tiixaiairuv 

is a virtue that hath its being from something superinduced 
upon nature. Justice is natural, as all virtues are, that is, 
reasonable and perfective of our nature, and introductive of 
well-being: but nature alone hath not enjoined it originally, 
any more than matrimonial chastity was a natural law, which 
could not be at all before Eve was created, and yet our 
nature was perfect before. " Justum nihil est non constituta 
lege ; Nothing is just or unjust in itself, until some law" 
of God or man does supervene : and the sceptics generally, 
and^ amongst the dogmatics, Aristippus said, that nothing is 
just by nature, but only vo>^ xal s6si, "bylaw and custom ;" 
which in what sense it is to be admitted, I shall explicate in 
the following periods : 

/s the universal Law of the World. 

*O xoivbg v6p<>$, so Aristotle calls it; h "The law of man- 
kind," '* Commune omnium hominum jus ;" so Justinian; 1 
which is not to be understood of all men in all things 
absolutely, but especially of all wise or civil nations that 
communicate with each. Lucretius k restrains it to neigh- 

Tune et amicitiam coeperunt jungere habentes 
Finitima inter se, nee laedere, nee violate. 

But many nations have thought, and some think so still, 
that they may hurt stranger people, the possessors of far 
distant countries, barbarous and savage people : the Romans, 
who were the wisest of all nations, did so. 

- Si quis sinus abditus ultra, 

Siqua foret tellus, quae fulrum mitteret aururn, 

Hostis erat. 1 

" All people whom they called barbarous, or whom they 
found rich, were their enemies." 

K Theognis. Gaisford.Poet. Min. Gr. p. 217. 

>> Rhetor, lib. i. c. 11. * Lib. ix. ff. de Jure et Justitia. 

k V. 1018. Eicbstadt, p. 237. 

1 Petr. Arb. sect. 119. Antonius, page 363. 


But there are some laws of nature which belong to all 
absolutely, to whom any notice of the true God and of good 
manners is arrived ; particularly those which belong to com- 
mon religion : but in the laws of justice, the law of nature is 
more restrained ; because it does not only, like the laws of 
religion, suppose some communications of command from 
God, but some intercourse with man; and, therefore, are 
obligatory, or extended in proportion to the proximity and 
communication. But the law taken in its integrity, or ac- 
cording to its formal reason, is the law of all mankind ; for 
all men in all things are bound to it. 

Concerning some common Necessities. 

This describes the matter and body of natural laws. 
For there is nothing by which the laws are denominated 


natural more than by this, that they are provisions made for 
the natural necessities of mankind : such are, To do as we 
would be done to ; To perform covenants ; To secure 
messengers of peace and arbitrators ; To be thankful to 
our benefactors ; and the like : without these a man cannot 
receive any good, nor be safe from evil. 

By this relation, and interchanging reason, it is therefore 
necessary that these laws should be distinguished from all 
others, because these and their like proceed from the same 
principle, are restrained by the same penalties, written in the 
same tables, have the same necessity, and do suppose some- 
thing superadded to our nature ; and, therefore, that these 
and their like are natural, and the others are not, must be by 
relation to the subject-matter. 

For in these cases and the like, when that which is pro- 
fitable is made just, then that which is natural is made a 
law ; that is, when the law tends to the same end whither 
nature tends, when the faculty or appetite is provided for by 
obedience to a law, then the law is called natural. For 
since all good and just laws are profitable, they are laws, 
civil, or religious, or natural, according as they serve the 
end of the commonwealth, or of the religion, or of nature. 
This is evident in the code of the Mosaic law, where all 
laws, being established by God under the same prince, could 
have no difference but by their subject-matter; and when 
they did lie in one body, to separate one from the other by 


proper appellatives was not easy, but by their manner of 
doing benefit, and their material relations. 

To which we are inclined by Nature. 

That which is usually called * the law of nature,' is, of 
itself, nothing else but * convenientia cum natura rationali, 
a consonancy to natural reason and being.' Some, in draw- 
ing the tables of the natural law, estimate those only to be 
natural laws which are concerning appetites and actions 
common to man and beast. "Jus naturale est, quod natura 
onrnia animalia docuit," said Ulpian ; m " That is the law of 
nature, which is, by nature, taught not only to men, but even 
to beasts;" for they also are under her power, 

Magnis agitant sub legibus aevum. 

The same definition is also given by Aquinas, and many 
lawyers after Justinian," and almost all divines after Aquinas ; 
but Laurentius Valla will, at no hand, endure it : " Nam 
jus naturale dicere quod natura omnia animalia docuit, 
ridiculum ; It is ridiculous to affirm that to be the law of 
nature, which nature teaches to all living creatures;" such 
as are, conjunction of sexes for conservation of the kind, 
nursing and educating children, abstinence from some certain 
mixtures and copulations, abhorring the conjunction of some 
very near persons. Concerning which it is, therefore, 
certain, that though the matter of these laws is hugely 
agreeable to nature, and some of them are afterwards made 
into laws, and, for their matter sake and early sanction, are 
justly called natural (as I have otherwhere discoursed 11 ), yet 
they are made laws in nature only ' dispositive,' that is, by 
nature they are made candidates of laws, they are prepared 
by nature, but completed by God in other ways than by our 
nature and creation. 

The reason is, because that which is natural is one, but 
these laws admit variety ; and amongst wise nations, in several 
cases, have and have not obligation. The religious, and the 
priests, and wise men among the Persians, did not account 
themselves bound by all these, as I shall discourse in the 

Lib.i. ff. de Justitia et Jure. 1. 2ae. q. 104. art. 2. 

Elegant, c. xlviii. * See Great Exemplar. 


following numbers ; and yet they were then to be reckoned 
amongst the wisest men in the world, because of their great 
empire and government, which, by reason of their great 
necessities and communications with mankind, cannot be 
done without its proportion of wisdom. But if nature did 
make these into a law, that is, if it comes, by creation, and 
from thence also the penalty and coercion is derived (for 
without these there is no law), then it were impossible the 
wise Persians should think it commendable to do that which 
others called abominable, since in all those things in which 
they do a thing which they call unlawful, they, as other men, 
felt an equal sharpness and pungency of conscience. 

But that I may speak closer to the particular, that a 
thing is common to men and beasts is no indication of a 
law of nature, but only of a common necessity, instinct, or 
inclination respectively. For they do it without a law, and, 
therefore, so may we, unless something else besides nature 
makes it a law to us ; for nature or natural desire in them 
and us is the same ; but this jh&nre is in them where a law 
cannot be, and, therefore, hrus'alsoit may be without a law. 
Beasts do all they can do, and can love, and are no more 
capable of law than of reason ; and if they have instincts and 
inclinations, it is no otherwise than their appetites to meat, 
concerning which nature hath determined all, but without 
proper obligation : and all -those discourses concerning the 
abstinence of beasts, their gratitude, their hospitality, their 
fidelity, their chastity and marriages, are just like the dis- 
courses of those that would make them reasonable. More 
certain and true is that which was said of old, 

'l%6v<ri fill xai &offi KO.} oiaiiis jftririiteTs, 
"EfQiiv XX>iAt<{, ixii tu J/*u itrriy in avroTi' 

" Fishes, and birds, and beasts, eat one another, because they 
have no justice or laws amongst them," said Hesiod; q and 
the like is in Homer/ 

eux tfTi koufi xa. avaovv v oxia - 

And, therefore, although it is a good popular argument 

q Op. et D. 275. Gaisford, p. 22. r II. % 262. 


which is used against unnatural conjunctions, which is in 
the Greek epigram,* 

Ataxta TUI Z,u\oyuv uuv 'yivos' r, y&i> f jct/Mvy 
(Juij'iv KTifta^ti Siffftia ffv^vyir,!, &C. 

"Abstain from such impurities, for the very beasts preserve 
their natural customs and conjunctions inviolate ;" yet this 
is an infinitely uncertain and fallacious way of estimating any 
particular laws of nature, because it may as well be said 
to be against the law of nature to be drunk as to be in- 
cestuous, upon this account, because cows will drink no 
more than to quench their thirst : and although in the law 
of Moses, beasts were put to death if they were instru- 
mental in bestiality or murder, yet this was in 'poenam 
Domini,' or a matter of dominion over beasts ; and the word 
* poana,' or * punishment,' was improper, and no otherwise to 
be understood than that of Suida, in his story of Nicon, whose 
statue when an envious person had whipped, to disgrace his 
memory, because in the Greek games he had won fourteen 
hundred crowns, the statue fell upon his head and crushed 
him to death. Tou ds 01 ira?des svi^ieffav povov ti(l ryj tixovi, xai oi 
Qdffioi xartwovnaav alryv xara rbv vdpov rbv Agccxovroj 'AQljmfW 
"His sons accused the statue as guilty of murder, and the 
Thasians threw it into the sea ; for so was the law of Draco, 
the Athenian," vvegogigeiv <povevovra$ xal rot, a-^v^a, " to banish 
every thing that killed a man, though it were wood, stones, 
or hatchets;" as you may see in Demosthenes. 1 These 
things were tragical detestations and emblematical prosecu- 
tions of the crime ; but the men were wiser than to believe 
it really a punishment to inanimate things. The same is true 
of beasts in their proportion, whose cruelty, savageness, or 
violent revenges, is not xaxta, but oiotsi xax/a, as Origen" calls 
it, "it is Tike pravity or wickedness." 

This thing is so much the more considerable, because it is 
of use against the pretences and scruples of some persons in 
things where they ought to be confident. St. Jerome says, 
that beasts, when they are impregnated, abstain from coition 
till the production of their young, and that this they do by 

Brunck, vol. iii. p. 33. * Orat. cont. Aristocratem. 

Cont. Celsum. 


the law of nature ; now upon this account, to impose a law 
upon mankind to do so too, is weak and dangerous. But 
yet not only he," but Origen, y St. Ambrose, 2 and Sedulius, a 
do argue to the same purpose upon that very ground ; most 
weakly and dangerously exposing married persons to the 
greater dangers of fornication, and depriving them of all the 
endearments of society, not considering that those creatures, 
and those men whose custom was otherwise, or laws different, 
had ' vagam libidinern,' or the evil remedy of polygamy. 
Beasts indeed are so ordered by nature, but without a law ; 
as there is no law for lions to eat flesh, or oxen grass, but 
yet naturally they do it. A beast may be cruel or lustful, or 
monstrous and prodigious in the satisfaction of his appetites ; 
but not injurious, or the breaker of any sanction, or laws of 
justice. There may be " damnum sine injuria facientis 
datum," says the law, h and it is instanced in beasts; 
" Neque enim potest animal injuriam fecisse dici, quod 
sensu caret; A beast that hath no sense" (that is, no 
reason) " or perception of lawful or unlawful, cannot be 
said to do an injury;" and therefore is not capable of 
punishment, because he is incapable of a law. So Justin 
Martyr, or whoever is the author of the questions and answers 
placed in his works ; Tb t<ri payXor?jr/ Tga^swj 8ia,f3dXXuv ruv 
aXoyuv rag <p-jfci$, OVK Isriv tuXoyov' " It is unreasonable to exact 
of beasts the obliquity of their actions, because they have no 
reason ;" it is therefore as unreasonable to make the law of 
nature to be something common to them and us. 

If it be replied, that the lawyers and philosophers mean 
only, that these material instances, which are common to 
them and us, are the particulars of the law of nature, and 
though they be not a law to them, yet the same things 
which they do naturally, are natural to us, and a law besides, 
that is, the natural law : besides that this is not usually said 
by them, we are then never the nearer to know what is the 
law of nature by this description of it, for all things which 
they and we do are not pretended to be laws ; as eating and 
sleeping; and, therefore, by what measure any other thing 
should be a law to us, because they and we do it, is not 

* Lib. i. cont. Jovin. 1 Horn. 5, sup. 19. Genes. 

1 Lib. i. Comm. sup. Luc. 1. * In c. v. Eph. 

b Lib. i. ff. si Quadrupes, sect. 3. 


signified by this definition, or an)' explication of it. Let us 
then try the other measures which are usual. 

Invited by Consent. 

The consent of nations, that is, public fame amongst all 
or the wisest nations, is a great signification of decency or 
indecency, and a probable indication of the law of nature. 


It is not a vain noise, when many nations join their voices in 
attestation or detestation of an action ; and it looks as if it 
were derived from some common principle, which seems 
either to be nature, or contract; and then, as in the first 
case, they are reasonable, so, in the second, they are 
directly obligatory. " Quod apud multos unum invenitur, 
non est erratum sed traditum," said Tertullian; d like that 
of Heraclitus ra xoivjf <pct,iv6fj,Ma xiara, if it seems so to 
the communities of mankind, it is genuine, and natural, and 
without illusion. 

Now this is true up to many degrees of probability ; and 
yet it is rather an index of a permission of nature, than of a 
natural obligation ; it tells us rather what we may do than 
what we must, it being more probable that all nations will 
not consent to an unnatural thing, that is, will not do vio- 
lence to nature, than that whatsoever they commonly act 
should be a necessary law, and the measures of nature, or 
the indication of her sanctions ; and yet it is still more 
probable that the consent of nations is more fit to be used as 
a coiToborative to a persuasion or a kind of actions, than as 
the prime motive or introduction. KgaTutrov Kavrag avd^-ffovg 
paivt&ai tfuvo/AoAoyouvra roTg prjdrjdo pivot ; } said Aristotle ; and 
"argumentum est veritatis aliquid omnibus videri," said 
Seneca ; it is a great strengthening and a powerful prevailing 
argument to have all men consent to our opinions and pro- 
positions. But it is in many moral instances as it is in the 
universal opinion which all mankind hath concerning jewels, 
where they consent no man knows how, or why : and no 
man can give a rational account why so great value should 

Hesiod, Op. 761. Gaisford, p. 57. d De Prescript. 


be set upon a diamond, but because it looks prettily and is 
lasting : and so there are in nature decencies and lasting 
proportions in moral instances between the conscience and 
the action ; but yet as there is no proper and effective use- 
fulness in diamonds towards the life of man, so neither is 
there in many instances in which the consent of mankind is 
very general. And therefore, this is very far short of a law, 
and is no certain token of a permissive right of nature, much 
less of a law or obligation. For, 

1. Whole empires have been established and united by 
violence, and have laws given to them, and they received 
them in pursuance of the conqueror's interest, and their 
educations have been formed accordingly. Ninus formed 
the Assyrian monarchy, and his son was flattered into the 
reputation of a god, and all the nations under that sceptre 
consented to the worship of Belus ; and all the nations with 
whom these men conversed, imitated the manners of the 
' princeps populus,' and, in their banquets, the most modest 
of their women used to strip themselves stark naked ; and it 
was counted no indecency, but she was rude and uncivil 
that did not. 

2. There are some nations so wholly barbarous and 
brutish in their manners, that from their consent we can 
gather nothing but thorns and wild briers : they are the 
words of Porphyry, e% &v ou Kootsqxti roij$ svyvtLfAom; Tq$ avdguxivr); 
xara-^wfc&ai <pv<stus, " from whom we must not learn to belie 
and abuse the fair inclinations and sentences of human 
nature." And therefore, if we go to account by the consent 
of nations, we must thrust out all wild, savage, barbarous, 
and untaught people, Nofjupov k&vixdv JOT/I/, ol%} TO (3a,pa,guds$' 
TO ya.0 TOV tdvous wopa VO/AIXUS tigriftivov ytvuv ffuXA^vrr/xoi/ sffTi v6{J,oi$ 
iK7</x//j(,Kwi>,said Michael Psellus; e " We must into the account 
of the law of nations take them only who are subject to laws, 
the well-mannered people only :" but then this also will be 
an infinite uncertainty. For, 

3. All nations to the Greeks were barbarous ; to the 
Romans also, all nations but the Greeks and themselves: 
and to the Jews all were heathens, which to them signified 
the same thing or worse. 

4. And then which are those nations whom we shall call 

In Sjnopsi LL. 


' Moratiores,' wise and ' well-mannered people?' for this will 
depend upon our own customs; if they be like our customs, 
our laws, and manners of living, then we approve them; else 
we condemn them. 

5. But then let us remember also that civility and fair 
customs were but in a narrow circle till the Greeks and the 
Romans beat the world into better manners. Aristotle says/ 
that, in his time, in the kingdoms of Pontus, which were 
very near to Greece, divers nations were eaters of man's 
flesh, such as were the Achaeans and Heniochans, and divers 
amongst the Mediterraneans were worse than they. 

6. The greatest part of the world were undiscovered till 
this last age ; and amongst them the * Jus gentium' was to 
sacrifice one another to demons; for all the old navigations 
were by maritime towns, and the inlands either were left 
alone in their own wilder manners, or it is not known what 
civilities they had. So that the 'Jus gentium' must needs 
have been an uncertain thing, variable and by chance, 
growing by accidents, and introduced by violence, and 
therefore could not be the measure of the law of nature. 

7. Add to these, that the several nations of the world 
had customs of their own, which, commencing upon uncertain 
principles, have been derived to their posterity, and retained 
with a religious fancy ; becoming natural and proportionable 
to their fancies and their fears, and they would rather die 
than do an act of violence to them, and believed it to be the 
greatest impiety in the world to break them. Herodotus 
tells a full instance of this in a trial made by Darius to the 
Indians and Greeks. He asked the Greeks, ' What they 
would take to do as the Indians did, who ate their dead 
parents 8 and friends, and accounted it the most honourable 
burial?' they answered, ' They would not do it at any price.' 
And when he asked the Indians, ' Upon what conditions they 
would be induced to burn the bodies of their fathers, and not 
to eat them ?' they desired him not to speak to them of any 
such horrid impiety as to burn their fathers' carcasses, and to 
deny to them the honour of a natural burial in the bowels of 
their dear children. "EQo$ A//iv, ' Custom is the genius' 
or spirit of a man's actions, and introduces a nature, a facility, 
a delight, and religion itself. Kai ya.g rb iftiffpwov 

' Lib. viii. Polit. c. 4. 8 In Thalia, 99. 


%8r) yiyvtrai' Sftoiov yap n rb 'i6og rfi pvcir iyy\i$ yag .7-6 
rw ahf' sari 5', r\ ftsv puffig, rou ah!' TO ds 160$, rou ToXXax/s. b 
Custom is as nature, and that to which we are accustomed 
is like that which we were born. " For that which is often, 
is next to that which is always." It is nature which is always, 
that is custom which is frequent. It is possible that nature, 
in many things, should be altered, and it is very difficult 
that custom should, in anything; we have seen and heard 
it in a great instance in a few ages last past. For when 
some of the reformed doctors, by their private authority, did 
twice attempt it, and the Church of Rome did twelve times 
publicly endeavour it, to get the Greeks to forsake the cus- 
toms of their churches, and to reform themselves by their 
copy, they were all repulsed ; and if the Greek prelates 
should take the people off from their old customs, besides 
that the great Turk would do them a mischief for complying 
with the Western Christians his enemies, the people them- 
selves would endanger all their religion and turn Turks, if 
they once did learn that their old customs were not neces- 
sary religion : and therefore they chose to stick secure in 
their religion, though allayed with some errors, than, for 
the purchase of a less necessary truth, endanger the whole 
religion by taking the people off from their 'jura gentis,' the 
* customs of their nation.' 

8. Some nations do refuse to admit of some of those 
laws, which others call ' the laws of nature,' and such which 
indeed were given to all the nations of the world. 

- Non fcedera legum 

Ulla colunt, placidas aut jura tenentia mentes. 

And excepting the care of children, to which by natural 
likeness and endearments we love to be obliged, and so less 
stand in need to be tied to it by a law, excepting this I say, 
to which beasts also do as well as we, some wise persons 
have observed that in all things else we are at liberty, that 
is, naturally tied to no law. 

EIJ ytif ns ifri xeivos KvfyuTfois voftt;, 
Kati 9-ttTfi TOUTO oo%av, u; ffa.Qu; Xeyai, 
6fl0 > /y Tt ira,ffi, rixva, rtBTtvrn fitew. 
Ta S' aXXa 

h Arist. Rhetor, lib. i. c. 11. Holwell, p. 50. 

1 Val. Place, iv. 102. Wagner, p. 102. 

k Eurip. Dictys. viii. Priestley's Edition of Eurip. vol. vii. p. 604. 


But the instances will make greater indication of this than 
any man's affirmative. The Idumseans are thieves and mur- 
derers, and will not believe that they do amiss : the manner 
of their nation is to live very much upon robbery, and plun- 
dering merchants; and in Homer's time, there was a nation 
of pirates; o-lx ado'^ov rv vaga ro?f ffa>./o/ rl fyffn-jeiv, dXX' tvdo^ov, 
said the scholiast; 1 "They thought it no disparagement to 
steal, but an honourable and a glorious thing ;" and it is 
worse now, and hath been growing so ever since Nimrod's 
time. Men account it lawful to kill and steal, if they do it 
by nations, by companies, and armies, and navies: and Cato 
had reason to complain, '* Fures privatorum furtorum, in 
nervo atque in compedibu?, setatem aguut, fures publici, in 
auro atque in purpura;" and particularly A. Gellius 171 tells 
of the Egyptians that they allow of thefts ; and the wiser 
Lacedaemonians, a sober and a severe people, taught their 
young men to steal without covetousness ; so they pretended, 
not to enrich themselves, but to encourage them to, fight the 
better by plundering well. Pomponius Mela n tells of the 
Augitae, a nation in Africa, whose custom it was that every 
bride should be prostitute to all comers the first night, and 
she who had entertained most, was most honoured : and 
Solinus tells of the Garamantici, that they know no mar- 
riages ; and therefore children only own their mothers, for 
they can hardly guess at their fathers. And indeed the old 
world di$ do such vile things, contracted such base customs, 
so delighted in wickedness, that as they highly provoked 
God to anger, so they left it impossible to judge of the laws 
of nature by the consent of nations. Catullus complains 
severely of this popular impiety : 

Sed postquam tellus scelere est imbuta nefando, 
Justitiamque omnes cupida de mente fugarunt ; 
Perfudere manus fraterno sanguine fratres ; 
Destitit exstinctos gnatus lugere parentes ; 
Optavit geuitor prima?vi funera gnati, 
Liber ut innuptae potiretur flore novercae; 
Ignaro mater substernens se impia gnato, 
Impia non verita est divos scelerare penates ; 
Omnia fanda, nefanda, malo permixta furore 
Justificam nobis mentem avertere DeorunuP 

1 See Ernesti's Homer. Odyss. y. 73. m Lib. xi. c. 18. 

" Lib. i. c. 8. Cap. 4. 

P Epithal. Pelei et Thetidos. Cam. 64. Doering, yol. i. p. 341. 


" The whole earth grew so impure and degenerous, that 
they drove justice from them as their enemy ; brothers washed 
their hands in their brothers' blood ; the sons mourned not 
at their father's funeral ; and the father wished the death of 
his eldest son, that he might lie with his son's wife; the 
mothers would steal secretly into the embraces of their sons ; 
and they feared not to break the laws of hospitality, or cus- 
tom, or nature, or societies." Now from hence it will be 
impossible to derive our customs, and so to suppose them 
to be laws of nature, which are openly destructive of Justice. 
And upon this last instance it appears that the saying of 
Polybius will be of no use to us in this question : 8s? 8e trxo- 
tfiTv iv roT$ xoiTa, pvffiv tyji\j<Si /xa'kXov TO tpuffii, xal ^ sv rote, Si s p3a 0- 
psvoic' that " for the laws of nature we must seek amongst 
them that live according to nature, not amongst them whose 
natures are depraved by custom ;" since as Andronicus of 
Rhodes was wont to say, " He lies not that says honey is 
sweet, though a sick man refuses it as bitter and unpleasant;" 
so is the law of nature perfect and immutable in those nations 
who are endued with a sound mind and a sober judgment. 
This indeed is true, but how this can be reduced to practice, 
will be found inexplicable, and the thing itself impossible, 
since the Lacedaemonians, the wisest and severest amongst 
all commonwealths, pe7*mitted such natural injustices, and 
would breed children upon their own wives by strangers, 
that they might have a good and a handsome breed. 

9. Some tyrants have made laws to serve their lusts, or 
their necessities ; and these things have come into customs, 
and laws of nations, and sometimes have leen suppressed, 
or spent in desuetude. It was the case of Seleucus, q who, in 
the necessity of his son Antiochus, gave him his own wife, 
and made it a law for the future, which thing either was 
instantly disgraced or rejected ; or else St. Paul had not 
heard, or had not taken notice of it : for he thought it such a 
fornication as was " not so much as named amongst the Gen- 
tiles, that one should have his father's wife:" indeed, it was 
not named ' inter cordatiores/ or those with whom he had 
conversed; but in Syria, and in the Pontic kingdom before 
his time, it had been named, and practised, and passed into 

<J Appian. de Bel. Syr. 


a law ; and yet that kingdom consisted of two and twenty 
nations of distinct languages. There was another instance 
like it spoken of by Cicero/ that a woman married her 
daughter's husband, which exactly was the same undecency 
and incestuous approach. " Nubit genero socrus, auspicibus 
nullis, nullis auctoribus, funestis ominibus. O mulieris 
scelus incredibile, et, praeter hanc unam, in omni vita inaudi- 
tum !" Something like St. Paul's %rtg obfe ovo^d^rai, but yet 
sometimes it was done, and not only before his time, but 
long after this monition also, as it was in the case of Antonius 
Caracalla : " Matrem duxit uxorem ; ad parricidium junxit 
incestum :" so Spartianus. Now concerning these things, 
how can any man from hence take an estimate of the law of 
nature ? for this cannot be of the law of nature, which hath 
in it so unreasonable and unnatural complications ; and yet 
by what rule shall we judge of nature's law, since the wisest 
persons, even Socrates and Cato, did such things which they 
thought fit, and we call unreasonable? for they gave their 
wives to their friends, as a man lends his beast for his neigh- 
bour's use. 

10. There are some nations so used to a rude unmannerly 
pride and fierceness, that all civility seems softness and effe- 
minacy. To this purpose is that which Tacitus' reports of 
the son of Phraates the Parthian, who being bred up with 
Tiberius, and efformed into the Roman civilities, was, by the 
prince his friend, sent to the kingdom of Parthia ; but in the 
young gentleman Vonon there were presently observed easi- 
ness of access, a fair civil deportment, and affability ; " obvia 
comitas :" but these virtues, being unknown to the Parthians, 
were "nova vitia ;" and because they were unknown to their 
ancestors, " perinde odium pravis et honestis," the good and 
the bad amongst them did equally detest them. 

11. Some nations have left their good customs and taken 
up bad, and have changed their natural reason into unnatural 
follies, and the basest sins have been very general ; and when 
God warned the Jews to take heed of the manners of their 
neighbour nations, he enumerates vile lusts, which were the 
national customs, for which God affirms that he rejected 
them from their habitations. 

r Orat. pro Cluent. 5. Beck, vol. iii. p. 14. Annal. Brotier. lib. ii. 2. 


12. Lastly, there is no consent among nations in their 
customs, nor ever was, until a higher principle made a law 
and tied it on with penalties ; such as were conquest, neces- 
sity, contract, reputation, decrees of princes, or the laws of 
God, or of a religion. N&'^os xai bfxr^ avu xa! xdru p'zgerai dia- 
ffxui'Atva xai ffxagaGff c^eva,* and neither nation with nation, nor 
man with man, nor a man with himself does long agree. 

Indeed there are some propositions which all the world 
agrees upon, such as are, the immortality of the soul, and 
that there is a God. Tavra 6 ' JLXXqv Xsyei, xai 6 j3dgago; "htyti, 
xai 6 'H-7TsiPurr,s, xai 6 3aXarr/oj, xai o ffopo?, xai o affopog'" " The 
Greek and the Barbarian, the Epirot and the maritime, the 
wise and the unwise, agree in the belief and profession of a 
God :" but when these things come to manners and customs, 

O " 

they differ infinitely : and as they anciently chose several 
gods, so they did not agree in the manner of worshipping 
their gods ; some they worshipped by praises, and some by 
railing; some-by giving sacrifice, some by throwing stones ; 
and so it was in other things. Some were observant of their 
parents, and some knocked them on the head with clubs 
when they came to a certain age, as is to be seen in ^Elian ; 
and even in the taking care and educating their children, in 
which nature seems most to have made a law, and signified 
it with the consent of nations, yet even in this also there 
was variety, and no universal law naturally established. For 
some nursed their children, and some did not ; sometimes 
they were left to their mothers without any provision made 
by their fathers ; sometimes the fathers took them from their 
mothers; but however, yet this cannot be properly derived 
from a 'jus gentium;' for if it be a right or a law at all, it 
is a ' lex singulorum/ it ' belongs to single persons' and to 
families, and is common to man and beast, and hath a ne- 
cessity in nature, as it is necessary to eat or sleep, and is as 
necessary to families as the other are to single persons : but 
where there is a necessity, there needs no law, and cannot 
properly be any. 

From all which I conclude that the 'jus gentium,' the law 
of nations, is no indication of the law of nature;" neither 

1 Max. Tyr. Diss. 1. Davis, p.4, line 2 from the bottom. 
Max. Tyr. Diss. 1. Davis, p. 6, line 8 from the top. 
* See the Preface to the Great Exemplar, n. 23. 


indeed is there any 'jus gentium' collectively at all ; but only 
the distinct laws of several nations ; and, therefore, it is to 
be taken distributively : for they are united only by contract, 
or imitation, by fear, or neighbourhood, or necessity, or any 
other accident which I have mentioned. And in those 
things in which they have agreed tacitly, or expressly, they 
have no obligation but what they bring upon themselves, as 
penalties, forfeitures, obloquies, and the like : which they 
as easily shake off when they have power, and when it is for 
their profit ; and we see it in those who have killed heralds 
or ministers of peace and of religion ; which we say commonly 
is against the law of nations; that is, it is against the custom 
of them, because to do so is to no purpose, a spleenish in- 
effective malice; and, therefore, although of no usefulness, 
and consequently seldom done, yet it hath been sometimes, 
and no punishment follows, and therefore it is no law. 

Now that this opinion may not wholly seem new, I find 
something of it affirmed by Constantinus Harmenopulus, y 
'Edvr/ios Bi v6fj,of Itsrh WTIVI sQvo; \\i, j thy %e5>vTU,i riva' " The law 
of nations is that which one or more nations use;" and he 
instances in not marrying their nearest kindred, amongst the 
Greeks and Saurae [Sarmatae, I suppose], or else to marry 
them as the Persians use. But this only, where it happens 
that nations do consent in great proportions, it confirms our 
assent to the law, and publishes its being natural, in case 
that of itself it be so. 

Prompted by Reason. 

Cicero z defines the law of nature to be, " Recta ratio 
naturae congruens, diffusa in ornnes, constans, sempiterna ; 
That right reason which is consonant to nature, which is in 
every one always and the same, that is the law of nature :" 
so he, and from him Lactantius ; but that is not exactly true. 
Right reason is the instrument of using the law of nature, 
and is that by which together with the conscience (which is 
all reason) we are determined to a choice and prosecution of 
it ourselves, or to a willingness of obeying the obliging 
power. Toi)g Szlo-jf vo/J,ov$ i/frods^irai Xoy/<r,u,2>s, xai BixaffrriS liyowTr- 
vo$ y'mrai' " Reason entertains the Divine laws of nature, 


1 Lib. i.tit.l. Procbir. 

1 De Repub. iii. Priestley's Cicero, vol. vii. p. 998. 


and so is made a most vigilant Judge," said Hierocles. 3 
This is that which distinguishes us from beasts, and makes 
us capable of laws : 

Sepnrat hoc nos 

A gregemutorum, atque ideo venerabile soli 
Sortiti ingenium, divinorumque capaces, 
Atque exercendis, capiendisque artibus apti, 
Sensum a coelesti demissum traximus arce. b 

But reason is not the law, or its measure ; neither can any 
man be sure that any thing is a law of nature, because it 
seems to him hugely reasonable ; neither, if it be so indeed, 
is it therefore a law. For it is very reasonable that every 
man should choose his own wife, because his interest is the 
greatest ; that every man should suffer as much evil as he 
does ; that a man be not punished for evils that he cannot 
help ; that every man should suffer for his own fault, and no 
man for the fault of another ; and yet these are not laws 
in all places where they are reasonable. Pythagoras in Laer- 
tius c said that which was very reasonable : " Plantae mansuetse 
non nocendum, veluti neque animali, quod non noceat homi- 
nibus ; A man may not hurt a gentle and a sweet plant, 
much less a harmless and a profitable beast." Truly, it is 
unreasonable a man should : but if he does, he breaks no 
law by the mere doing such an action. For reason can 
demonstrate, and it can persuade and invite, but not com- 
pel any thing but assent, not obedience, and therefore it 
is no law. 

But besides this, reason is such a box of quicksilver that 
it abides nowhere ; it dwells in no settled mansion : it is 
like a dove's neck, or a changeable taffata; it looks to me 
otherwise than to you, who do not stand in the same light 
that I do : and if we inquire after the law of nature by the 
rules of our reason, we shall be uncertain as the discourses 
of the people, or the dreams of disturbed fancies. For some 
having (as Lucian d calls it) " weighed reasons in a pair of 
scales," thought them so even, that they concluded no truth 
to be in the reasonings of men ; or if there be, they knew 
not on which side it stood and then it is as if it were not 

* Needham, p. 156, uppermost line. b Juv. Sat. xv. 142. 

c Longol. vol. ii. p. 892. d Vit. Auct. c. xxvii. Bipont. vol. iii. p. 114. 



at all ; these were the sceptics : and when Varro reckoned 
two hundred and eighty-eight opinionsconcerningthe chiefest 
good or end of mankind, that were entertained by the wisest 
and most learned part of mankind, it is not likely that these 
wise men should any more agree about the intricate ways 
and turnings that lead thither, when they so little could agree 
about the journey's end, which all agreed could have in it 
no variety, but must be one, and ought to stand fair in the 
eyes of all men, and to invite the industry of all mankind to 
the pursuit of it. 

And it is certain, that the basest of things have been by 
some men thought so reasonable, that they really chose it, 
and propounded it lo others. And this is the less wonder, 
when we consider that, in defiance of all the consenting 
reasons, and faith of all the nations of the world, some few 
single persons, wittier than folly, but not so wise as reason 
or religion, should say that there is no God : such were Dia- 
goras Milesius, Theodorus Cyrenaicus, Protagoras; and, it is 
thought, Lucian also : but they that think so, must also 
consequently believe that nothing is dishonest that they can 
do in private, or with impunity. Some have believed that 
there is nothing in itself just, but what is profitable: so did 
Carneades (whom I before noted out of Lactantius), and so 

Now here it is not sufficient to say, that in this inquest 
after the law of nature by the proportions of reason, we must 
exclude all unreasonable, brutish, and monstrous persons. 
For first the question will return, who those are which are 
unreasonable? and we are not to reject the opinion upon 
pretence it is unreasonable, unless we first know some certain 
measures of reason : now we cannot take our measures of 
reason from nature ; or if we do, we cannot take the measures 
of nature from reason ; that is, if we call men unreasonable 
because they speak unnatural things, then it must be certain 
that what is natural or unnatural, is known some other way 
than by the proportions of reason ; for the reason being mis- 
liked for its disproportion to nature, the laws of nature must 
be foreknown, andtherefore are not to be proved by that which 
comes after : besides this, I say, the wisest of men in their 
profession, and such as were no fools in their persons, so far 
as can appear by all their other discourses, have believed the 


worst of crimes to be innocent, and to have in them no 
natural dishonesty. Theodorus allowed of sacrilege, and so 
do thousands who at this day call themselves Christians : 
Plato allowed adultery and community of wives ; so did 
Socrates and Cato. Zeno and Chrysippus approved of incest, 
and so did the Persians ; so that we may well say as Socrates 
to Phaedon, " When we hear the name of silver or iron, all 
men that speak the same language, understand the same 
thing ; but when we speak of good and evil, we are distracted 
into various apprehensions, and differ from each other and 
from ourselves." We say as Pilate said of truth, * What is 
truth ? ' we cannot tell what is true, and what is good, and 
what is evil ; and every man makes his own opinions to be 
laws of nature, if his persuasion be strong and violent. 
Tertullian 6 complained that the old philosophers did so; 
"leges naturae opiniones suas facit philosophia." And yet 
it is without all peradventure, that all laws which are com- 
monly called natural, are most reasonable ; they are per- 
fective of nature, unitive of societies, necessary to common 
life, and therefore most agreeable to reason. But if you 
make an andx-jg/g of these, and reckon backward, you cannot 
wisely and demonstratively reckon from reason, or consent, 
or natural inclinations, up to natural laws. 

But the last clause of the rule finishes this whole question. 

Sound upon us by the Command of God. 

For when God made man a free agent, he by nature gave 
him power to do all that he could desire ; and all that is 'jus 
naturale, a natural right or power;' and it needs no 
instances ; for it is every thing he could desire in eating and 
drinking, and pleasures, and rule, and possession : but the 
law was superinduced upon this. Right is liberty, but law is 
a fetter; nature is free to every thing which it naturally 
desires, rb el.ivSeoov TO /j,ri8evb$ iiffqxoov, aXXa crgarrs/i/ a-rXw? rot, 
dozouvra at/rw, said Dio Chrysostomus ; " That is the right of 
nature, to be free, to be subject to no law, to do absolutely 
whatsoever pleases us." This is <pv<tixn tv^sosia, (as the law calls 
it) Gvy/uswGa vodrriiv a ftovXirat' "a natural liberty per- 
mitting us to do what we list." " Libertatis proprium est, sic 

e Lib. de Anima, c. 2. 


vivere ut veils," said Cicero : f " It is not liberty unless you 
live as you please:" but servitude is not by nature, therefore 
liberty is. 8 For where nature hath an appetite, and proper 
tendency, it cannot deny to it self-satisfaction ; whatsoever 
therefore is a law and a restraint to it, must needs be super- 
induced upon it : which nature herself cannot be supposed 
to be willing to do ; and nothing had power to do but God 
only, who is the Lord of nature. 


' A.\6^u<roi<ri 2' i^axi tix,r,f, jj craXXay et^ifni," 

It was God that gave justice to mankind : he made justice 
by his sanction. This was expressly the sentence of Cicero, 
speaking of the law of nature ; " Est recta, et a numine 
Deortim tracta ratio, imperanshonesta,prohibenscontraria :"' 
and again, " Lex vera atque princeps, apta ad jubendum et 
ad vetandum, ratio est recta suinmi Jovis." J The law of 
nature is a transcript of the wisdom and will of God written 
in the tables of our minds, not an rjejj/jta /3/ou xa/ J/POVOU, a pro- 
duct of experience, but written with the finger of God, first in 
the tables of our hearts. But those tables we, like Moses, 
brake with letting them fall out of our hands, upon occasion 
of the evil manners of the world : but God wrought them again 
for us, as he did for Moses, by his Spirit, in all the ages of the 
world, more or less, by arts of instruction and secret insi- 
nuation, by all the ways proportioned to a reasonable nature ; 
till from an inclination it came to a firm persuasion, and so 
to a law : God, in this, ruling in our hearts something after 
the manner by which he reign* in heaven, even by significa- 
tions of what is fit, by inspirations and congenite notices, by 
natural necessities : but this thing was yet no law till God 
also had signified it to men, after the manner of men, that 
is, by discourse and human communications, by something 
that taught them and obliged them. 

The sense of this is, that religion is the first and greatest 
bond of laws, and necessity is the next : for though many 
time it prevails more than religion, yet it is not always 

r Off. lib. i. c.20, sect. 12. Heusinger, p. 171. 

f Lib. v. D. de Statu Hominum. Institut. de Jure Personarum. Sect, etlibertas. 

> Hesiod. Op. et D. 276. Gaisford, p. 22. 

1 Philipp. xi. c. 12. Priestley's Cicero, vol. iii. p. 1510. 

j De Leg. i. end of c. 4. 


incumbent ; and that which is necessary to society, is incon- 
venient in some cases; and when power comes in, and need 
goes out, there is nothing which can make or continue the 
law : and it were impossible that all the w^orld should 
acknowledge any lawgiver but God ; for nothing else could 
be greater than ;ill mankind, nor be trusted in all cases, nor 
feared, but he alone. And, therefore, the heathen princes, 
when they gave their laws, gave them in the name of a 
deity. So Numa, Lycurgus, and others ; which was not a 
design to scare fools and credulous people, but in some 
instances (excepting only that they named a false god) was 
a real truth ; that is, in all those things w r hich commanded 
natural justice, honesty, and decencies ; for these were really 
the laws of the true God. 

For the law of nature is nothing but the law of God, 
given to mankind for the conservation of his nature, and 
the promotion of his perfective end. A law of which a 
man sees a reason and feels a necessity : God is the law- 
giver. Practical reason or conscience is the record, but 
revelation and express declaring it was the first publication 
and emission of it, and till then it had not all the solemnities 
of law, though it was passed in the court, and decreed, and 

And this is the perfect meaning of those words of St. 
Paul, "But for the law I had not known sin;" that is, 
although by natural reasons and the customs of the world I 
had, or might have, reasons to dislike many actions ; yet till 
the law declared it, I could not call any thing a sin ; and if 
St. Paul could not, neither could the Gentiles : their nature 
was alike, and St. Paul had advantage in education, and yet 
his nature could not instruct him in the names and dif- 
ferences of good and evil ; therefore, neither could the 
Gentiles know it merely by nature. But yet a man may 
"become a law unto himself:" so St. Paul observes of the 
Gentiles, who, " not having a law, do by nature the things 
contained in the law, and so become a law unto themselves." 
So does every man who believes any thing to be necessary, 
though it be not so ; yet * he becomes a law to himself,' 
because, by his conscience and persuasion, he makes to 
himself a law or obligation : much more might the Gentiles 
do so ; in whose nature the aptnesses to do justice and 


disposition to laws were concreated with their understand- 
ings. Well might they ' become a law unto themselves ' in 
these natural instances ; for if opinion can make a law to 
ourselves in an unlawful matter, much more may it do so in 
a matter that is so agreeable to our nature, so fitting, so 
useful, so prepared to become a law, that it wants only the 
life of authority, sanction, and publication : but though the 
Gentiles became a law unto themselves by this means, yet 
their natural reason was not yet framed into a law, till God's 
authority, either by his express declaration, or by the con- 
science of the man, that is, directly or indirectly, did inter- 
vene: " testimonium reddente conscientia," so St. Paul ; 
"their conscience bearing witness :" for either God pub- 
lished these laws by express declaration and voices, or else 
by imprinting upon the conscience such fears and opinions, 
that passed upon the man the reverence and obligation of 
laws. In both these there was variety : though in the latter 
there was, amongst the better sort of men, a more regular 
and universal influence and effect : and although it is very 
probable that all the measures of justice and natural laws of 
honesty were expressly published to the patriarchs of the 
great families of the world, yet when some of the posterity 
lost their tradition, these laws were maintained by more im- 
perfect relations, and kept up by fears and secret opinions 
which the Spirit of God, who is never wanting to men in 
things necessary, was pleased, in his love to mankind, to put 
into the hearts of men, that men might be governed by 
instruments which would not fail. 

Thus St. Jerome affirms,* that Pharaoh knew his sins by 
the law of nature : and of this it was that Tertullian affirmed, 1 
" Ante legem Moysi scriptam in tabulis lapideis, legem 
fuisse contendo non scriptam, quae naturaliter intelligebatur 
et a patribus custodiebatur : nam unde Noe Justus inventus 
est, si non ilium naturalis legis justitia praecedebat? Unde 
Abraham amicus Dei deputatus, si non de aequitate et justitia 
legis hujus naturalis?" By this the fathers lived, by this 
Noah was found just, and Abraham the friend of God; for 
this, though not written in tables of stone, yet it was written 
in the tables of their hearts; that is, it was, by God, so 

k Epist. 151, ad Algas. q. 8. ' Adv. Judasos, c. ii. 


imprinted in their consciences, that they were, by it, suffi- 
ciently instructed how to walk and please God : and this is 
that which was said by Antigone," 1 in Sophocles, and which 
Apollonius did use against the edict of Nero. 

Ou ya.^ TI f*m Zivs J o xngv%as TaSf, 
OiS' n %uroixoi Teat xaru tuv A/x, 
O/ rat^S' In avf^tu-raifiv a^itrav v'ofteuf. 
OvSt ffSitnv raffovrot tuofjiw/ fa, aa. 
Kttgu'yftaff , caffr ayjacrra xaVifaX? Slut 
Niyi/jUa ^vyaffQai Svrov oiff ufigaiixfAiiv* 
Oil ya.^ n vuv <rt xct%lTi;, XX" 0.11 -ran 
Zj Tavra, xauSiis oTbiv \\ orou 'fyavn. 

" This is a thing which neither heaven nor hell hath taught 
by any new or express sanction : for God hath given us 
other laws. But never did I think that thy commands 
could ever prevail so, that it could be possible that thou, 
being a mortal man, should prevaricate the unwritten and 
potent laws of God. For these laws are not of to-day or 
yesterday, but they are eternal, and their principle is secret, 
and from within." 

And, therefore, Philo says, the law of nature is a law, 
vif afavdrov (pvgeu; ev adavdrw diama rviru&ti$, "engraven in 
an immortal understanding by an immortal nature." In this 
whole affair, God is as the Sun, and the conscience as the 
eye : or else God, or some angel from him, being the ' intel- 
lectus agens,' did inform our reason, supplying the place of 
natural faculties, and being a continual monitor (as the 
Jews generally believe, and some Christians, especially about 
three or four ages since), which Adam de Marisco was wont 
to call ' Elias's crow :' something flying from heaven with 
provisions for our needs. And the gloss, and Gulielmus 
Parisiensis, and, before them, Maimonides, from whom I 
suppose they had it, affirm this to be the meaning of David, 
in the fourth psalm, " Offer the sacrifice of righteousness;" 
it follows " Quis monstrabit? Who will shew us any 
good?" who will tell us what is justice, and declare the 
measures of good and evil ? He answers, " Signatum est 
super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine ; Thou hast consigned 
the light of thy countenance upon us:" " ut scilicet," as it is 

00 An tig. 455. Erfurdt, p. 31. 


in another psalm, "in lumine tuo videamus lumen ; that 
in thy light we may see light." 

The effect of all which, is this only, That God is our 
Lawgiver, and hath made our hearts to be the tables of the 
laws of nature, that they might always be there under our 
eye, legible and clear. It is not a law for being placed 
there ; but God first made or decreed it to be a law, and 
then placed it there for use and promulgation : and although 
very many men and nations had no intercourse with God as 
a Lawgiver, but what they have by the means of their con- 
science, that is, they never heard God speak, had no pro- 
phets, no revelation, and have forgot the tradition of their 
fathers, yet when God, by ways undiscernible, hath written 
a proposition there, and that the man does believe any thing 
to be good or evil, it is true that God is his Lawgiver, 
because he only is Lord of his conscience ; but it is also 
true that ' he becomes a law unto himself;' that is, he 
becomes obliged to God by the act of his own conscience ; 
and however it be that his conscience be wrought upon, 
though by a fancy or a fear, a sad sight or a casual dis- 
course, if it works the conscience into the notice and obe- 
dience of a natural law, the meaner the instrument is, the 
greater is the efficacy of the principal agent. The putting 
it into the conscience is a sufficient promulgation of the 
law, however that be done ; but nature alone never does it : 
the express voice of God, tradition, prophets, contract, pro- 
vidence, education, and all sorts of influence from God, and 
intercourse with man, have their portion in this effect. And 
when wise men say, * this is naturally understood ;' it must 
mean thus, naturally men find it reasonable, but not natur- 
ally to be a law ; naturally they consent to it, but not natur- 
ally find it out ; or naturally we may be instructed, but not 
naturally bound ; but when God changes science into con- 
science, then he makes that which is reasonable to become alaw. 

But first or last, this way or another, it became a law 
only by the authority and proper sanction of God ; God is 
the author of our nature; and made a law fit for it, and sent 
the principles of that law together with it : not that what- 
soever is in nature or reason is therefore a law because it is 
reasonable, or because it is natural ; but that God took so 
much of prime reason as would make us good and happy, 


and established it into a law ; which became and was called 
the law of nature, both because, 1 . These laws are, ' in 
materia natural!;' that is, concerning the good which refers 
to the prime necessities of nature ; and also because, 
2. Being Divine in respect of the author, the principles of this 
law are natural in respect of the time of their institution 
being together with our nature : though they were drawn out 
by God severally in several periods of the world, who made 
them laws actually by his command, which in nature are so 
only by disposition. 

This latter reason is given by Alphonsus a Castro and by 
Wesenbech : the former is insinuated by Mynsinger, defin- 
ing the law of nature to be " quod natura, adeoque Deus 
ipse, omnes homines in creatione, prima quaedam praecepta 
et formulas honestatis docuit." But the latter of them, I 
say, is true only of such as are the prime laws, or rather 
rules of nature, and the general measures of virtue and vice. 
But as for the particular laws of nature (which only are 
properly to be called laws), we are to look for no other 
system or collective body of them, but the express declared 
laws of God which concern morality, that is, all that are 
given to all mankind without relation to any one period : 
such is the moral law of the Jews ; and such is the religion 
of the Christians ; that less perfect, this more perfect and 
entire : for these in their several proportions are such which 
are generally for all mankind ; and upon this account it is 
affirmed by Gratian, n " Jus naturale esse, quod in lege et 
evangelic continetur ; The law of nature is that which is 
contained in the Law and the Gospel : " which saying he 
had from Isidore. 

It is necessary that this be rightly understood, because it 
establishes many certainties in the matter of conscience, and 
eases us of the trouble of finding out a particular system of 
natural laws, the inquiry after which hath caused many dis- 
putes in the world, and produced no certainty. It is all 
tbplfHt v.a.1 dupov Qiou, vo^og Aoyog, og6b$ Xoyoj, A/os Sigftbg, as 
the Platonists call it, vo/j,o$ vov biavow, " the word of God is 
the law, a right rule or sentence, and Divine law, a law that 
is the distribution of the mind of God;" and under this 

D Dist. 1, in princ. 


come all the precepts of Christianity : which was well 
summed up by him who gave this account of the religion, 
and the religious that are of it, saying they are " homines 
conspirantes in communem utilitatem ;" and that they mu- 
tually make and give elpfio'kai. <Ml rou M adixtiv tig rb w /BXa-rrfiv 
aXXfaovs, A")5e P^dirre&ai, " symbols and sacraments to each 
other, that none shall do or receive injury : " " men conspiring 
for the good of others :" or, as the Roman soldier was told, 
'They are men whose profession is to do hurt to no man, 
and to do good to every man :' and this is the integral 
design of the law of nature, so far as it can relate to human 

No'^os xai Xo'yoj. So Christ is called by St. Peter and the 
Greek fathers, he is the " word of the Father and the law : " 
and it is remarkable, this Word or law of the Father was 
the instrument of teaching mankind in all periods of the 
world. He taught the law of nature to all men, and renewed 
it, and made several manifestations and manners, and at last 
appeared in the form of a man, and made a perfect oody of 
it to last as long as our nature lasts, and as long as this 
world and his kingdom abides. When God spake to Adam, 
to the patriarchs, to the prophets, still he spake by Christ, 
who was the Angel of the Old Testament, and the Mediator 
of the New. He is therefore ' Verbum Patris ;' by him he 
signified his laws and righteous commandments, and the law 
was given, sv x f S ff ' P 1 *'*** " i n the hands," that is, by the 
ministry, " of the Mediator, who is one : that is, Jesus 
Christ;" and this Tertullian affirms. " Christus semper 
egit in Dei Patris nomine. Ipse ad initio conversatus est, 
et congressus cum patriarchis et prophetis." And again, p 
" Christus ad colloquia semper descendit, ab Adam usque 
ad patriarchas et prophetas, in visione, in somno, in speculo, 
in aenigmate, ordinem suum prasstruens ab initio semper : et 
Deus internis cum hominibus conversatus est ; non alius 
quam sermo qui caro erat futurus ; Christ in all ages spake 
to men in the person of his Father, being from the beginning 
the W^ord of the Father, which was to be incarnate." The 
same also is to be read in Justin Martyr against Tryphon the 
Jew. " Christ, therefore, was the preacher of this righteous- 

Adv. Marcion. lib. ii. P Adv. Praxeam. 


ness, and at last revealed all his Father's will, which should 
never receive any further addition, diminution, or alteration." 
The ' novelise constitutions,' the enlargements and explica- 
tions made by our blessed Lord, together with the repetition 
of the old, that is, the Christian law, is the perfect code and 
digest of the natural law. For they all rely upon the funda- 
mental relations between God and us, and the natural inter- 
course between man and man, and the original necessities 
and perfective appetites of our own nature. 

But here it will be necessary to clear that great objection, 
which will be pretended against this doctrine. For since 
Christian religion is new in respect of nature, and super- 
induced some things upon nature, and rescinded some of her 
rights, and restrained her liberty ; it will seem impossible 
that Christian religion should be a collected body of the laws 
of nature ; because the law of nature is prime and eternal ; 
which Christian religion seems not to be. Now to this I 
answer : 

1. That it is evident, that all that which any men call the 
laws of nature, is actually contained in the books of the New 
Testament. St. Austin, Hugo de St. Victore, and Alexander, 
say the law of nature hath but these two precepts : 1 . Do as 
you will be done to ; and 2. Do not that which you would 
not have done to yourself. Isidore reckons into the laws of 
nature, 1. Conjunction of male and female; 2. Education; 
and, 3. Succession of children: 4. Common possessions; 
and, 5. Common liberty; and, 6. Acquisition of things in air, 
earth, and sea : 7. Restoring the thing that is intrusted ; 
8. Repelling force by force. These are rights of nature, and 
natural states or actions, but not laws. There are some laws 
concerning these things, but they also are in the New Testa- 
ment. Cicero q reckoned, 1. Religion ; 2. Piety ; 3. Thank- 
fulness ; 4. Vindication of injuries ; 5. Observance of supe- 
riors; 6. To speak truth. The lawyers reckon otherwise. 
The laws of nature are these, 1 . To worship God ; 2. To live 
honestly ; 3. To obey superiors, kings, parents, &c. ; 4. To 
hurt no man ; 5. To give every one his own ; 6. Common 
use of things as far as it may be ; and where it may not, 
then, 7. Dominion, and, 8. Propriety, enter ; 9. To takeaway 

s De Inventione, sect. 65. Proust, p. 241. 


evil-doers from among men. And if we observe but the 
precepts of nature (for they had no other light which we 
know of), which are reckoned' by Hesiod, Pythagoras, 
Theognis, Phocylides, Epictetus, Cato, Publius, and Seneca, 
we s all find they reckon many minute counsels, which 
are derived from natural principles, but yet stand far off 
from the fountain : and some which they derive from the 
rights of nature, not from her laws, but indeed are directly 

Semper tibi proximus esto. 

So Cato ; and 

Qui simulat verbis, nee corde e ;t fidus amicus ; 
Tu quoque fac simules, sic ars deluditur arte. 

And that of Cicero, " vindicationem esse honestam, revenge 
is justice." By their own reason, men took their aim 
at the precepts and laws of nature ; but, their reason being 
imperfect and abused, it was not likely they could be exact: 
none but the wisdom of the Father could do it perfectly. 
Thus they can never agree in their enumeration of the natural 
laws : but it is certain, that so many of these as are laws 
and bound upon us by God, are set down in the Scriptures 
of the New Testament. For it is not a law of nature, unless 
God have commanded it to us in, or by, or with, nature and 
natural reason. Now it is certain, that Christ told us all his 
Father's will : and the apostles taught all that to the Church, 
which Christ taught to them : and therefore what is not in 
their doctrine is not in nature's law, that is, it is no part of 
the law of God : and if it be certain that he that lives 
according to the law of Christ, does please God and do all 
his duty ; then it follows that either there is no such thing 
as that which we call the law of nature, and no obligation 
from thence, and no measures of good and evil there ; or if 
there be, it is also part of the Christian man's duty, and 
expressed and taught by the Master and Lord of the Christ- 
ians. All that is essentially good, is there ; all that by 
which the world can be made happy, is there ; all that which 
concerns every man's duty, is there ; all the instruments of 
felicity, and the conveyance of our great hopes, is there ; 
and what other potentiality there can be in the law of nature, 
than what I have reckoned now, I neither have been taught 


by any man else, neither can I myself imagine nor under- 
stand. Here are the general propositions, which are the 
form, and make the honesty and the justice of all the parti- 
cular laws of nature ; and what is not there provided for by 
special provision, or by general reason and analogy, is wholly 
permitted to human laws and contracts, or to liberty and 
indifference, that is, where the laws of nature cease, there 
the rights of nature return. 

2. But secondly, to the objection I answer, that it will be 
but weakness, to think that all the instances of the law of 
nature must be as prime as nature herself: for they neither 
are so prime nor so lasting, but are alterable by God and by 
men, and may be made more, or fewer, or other. 

This may seem new, and indeed is unusual in the manner 
of speaking : but the case is evident and empirically certain. 
For when God commanded Abraham to kill his son ; the 
Israelites to rob the Egyptians, and to run away with their 
goods ; he gave them a commandment to break an instance 
of the natural law ; and he made it necessary that Cain 
should marry with his sister : and all those laws of nature 
which did suppose liberty and indistinction of possessions, 
are wholly altered when dominion, and servitude, and pro- 
priety, came into the world : and the laws of nature which 
are in peace, are not obligatory to other persons in the time 
of war. 

For the laws of nature are, in many instances, relative to 
certain states ; and, therefore, in their instances and particu- 
lars, are as alterable as the states themselves : but the reasons 
indeed on which they do rely (supposing the same or equal 
circumstances and the matter unchanged), are eternal and 
unalterable as the constitution of nature. But, therefore, it 
was unwarily said of the learned Hugo Grotius, and of divers 
others before him, that " God cannot change the law of 
nature." For, as St. Paul said of the priesthood, " it being 
changed, there must of necessity be a change also of the 
law," so it is in the law of nature ; the matter of it being 
changed, there must of necessity also be a change in the 
law : for although the essential reason may be the same in 
changed instances, yet that hinders not but the law may 
justly be affirmed to be alterable ; just as the law was under 
the several priesthoods, in both which the obligation is the 


same, and so is the relation to God, and the natural religion. 
Thus when rivers are common, it is lawful for any man to 
fish, and unlawful for my neighbour to forbid me ; but when 
rivers are inclosed and made proper, it is unlawful for me to 
fish, and lawful for the proprietary to forbid me; before the 
inclosure it was just to do that thing which afterward is 
unjust ; and this is as much a change of a particular law as 
can be imagined. If it be meant, that while the propriety 
remains, or the state, the law introduced upon that state is 
unalterable ; then there is no more said of the law of nature 
than of any positive law of God, or the wise law of any 
prince ; which are not to be altered as long as the same case 
and the same necessity remains : and it would be to no 
purpose to affirm so of the law of nature ; for the sense of it 
would be, that while things remain as God established them, 
they are unalterable. But if God can disannul the obligation, 
by taking away the matter of the law, or the necessity, or 
the reasonableness, or the obligation (and all this he can do 
one way or other), it is not safe nor true to say, " God cannot 
alter the law of nature." He changed the matter in suffering 


liberty to pass into servitude ; he made necessity in one 
instance, I mean in the matter of incest in the case of Cain, 
and afterwards took it away : he took away the reasonable- 
ness of the sanction by changing the case in the subduction 
or mutation of the matter, and he took off the obligation in 
the case of Abraham and of the Israelites robbing their 

And, therefore, the Christian laws superinducing some 
excellences and perfections upon human nature, and laying 
restraint upon the first natural laws, that is, upon such which 
before this last period of the world were laws of nature, is 
no hard thing to be understood. God in it used but his 
own right. And I suppose it will be found to be unreason- 
able to expound the precepts of the religion by the former 
measures of nature, while she was less perfect, less in- 
structed : but this rather ; the former instances of the natural 
law are passed into the Christian precepts, and the natural 
instance is changed, and the law altered in its material part; 
the formality of it remaining upon the supposition of a 
greater reason. Thus to repel force by force is a right of 
nature ; and afterwards it was passed into a law that men 


might do it ; that is, God expressly gave them leave ; and 
although it be not properly a law which neither forbids nor 
commands, but only gives a leave, yet, when God hath 
forbidden men to do violence, and to establish this law the 
rather, gave leave, to any man that could, to punish his 
unjust enemy that attempted to do him mischief, it may 
be called a law, in the lesser sense, that is, a decree of the 
court of heaven by which this became lawful. Though this 
was passed into a law in the manner now explicated, yet 
it was with some restraints ; which yet were not so great, 
but they left a great liberty, which was sufficient security 
against violence. The restraint which God superinduced 
upon this right of nature, was but " moderamen inculpatae 
tutelae;" it left men defended sufficiently against injuries, 
though it permitted us to be tied in some lesser instances 
and unavoidable accidents. But now although Christianity 
hath proceeded in the first method of God, and restrained it 
yet more, and forbids us to strike him that strikes us, we are 
not to force this precept into a sense consisting with the 
former liberty which we call the law of nature ; but was at 
first only a right of nature or a permissive law, but not obli- 
gatory ; and afterwards suffered some restraints : for that 
which suffered some, may suffer more : and as the right of 
nature was, for its being restrained, recompensed in the pro- 
visions of laws, and by the hands of justice, taking it from 
the private into the public hand ; so may this right of nature, 
when it is wholly taken from us, be recompensed by God's 
taking the sx^l^eig, or ' the power of avenging' our quarrels, 
into his hands. 

This right of nature being now almost wholly taken from 
us, part of it is taken up to God, and part of it is deposited 
in the hands of the civil power, but we have none of it ; only 
by Christ's laws and graces our nature is more perfect, and 
morality is set forward, and justice and all our rights are 
secured ; but yet the law is changed. The like may be said 
in divers other instances, as I shall discourse in their several 
places : here it is sufficient to have given the first hint of it, 
and demonstrated the certainty and reasonableness of it, 
which (as appears by the instances) although it be espe- 
cially and frequently true in the 'jus naturae' or the 'per- 
missive law of nature/ and in those not only God, but men 


also, may make an alteration ; yet even in those laws which 
are directly obligatory, the power of God who made them 
cannot be denied to be equal in the alteration : and indeed 
he that can annul nature, can also at least alter her laws, 
which are consequent to nature, and intended only for her 

The case seems to be the same with eating and drinking, 
which God hath made necessary for our life, as justice is to 
societies : but as he can take away the necessity from this 
person at this time to eat, and can supply it otherwise, so he 
can also conserve human society in the mutation of cases 
and extraordinary contingencies as well as in the ordinary 
effects of justice. Indeed God cannot do an unjust thing; 
because whatsoever he wills or does, is therefore just because 
he wills and does it; but his will being the measure of jus- 
tice, and his providence the disposer of those events and 
states of things to which the instances of justice can relate, 
when he wills an extraordinary case, and hath changed the 
term of the relation, then he hath made that instance, which 
before was unjust, now to become just ; and so hath not 
changed justice into injustice, but the denomination of the 
whole action, concerning which the law was made, is altered 
from unjust to just, or on the contrary. 

It is not to be supposed, that the whole law of nature can 
be altered, as long as our nature is the same ; any more than 
the fashion of our garments can be generally altered as long 
as our body is of this shape : and, therefore, it is not to be 
thought that he that makes a doublet shall ever make three 
sleeves, unless a man have three arms, or a glove with six 
fingers for him that hath but five ; but many particular laws 
of nature suffer variety and alteration, according to the 
changes that are in our nature and in our necessities, or by 
any measure of man or men which God shall superinduce. 

Duo cum idem faciunt, saepe ut possis dicere, 
Hoc licet impune facere huic, illi non licet; 
Non quo dissimilis res est, sed quo is qui facit. r 

The rule of nature is always the same ; " yet one may do 
what another may not ; and sometimes that is lawful which 

r Terent Adelph. act. v. sc. 1. Mattaire, p. 198. 


at another is criminal ; not because the measure is change- 
able, but the thing measured suffers variety." So that in 
effect, the sense and extent of truth in this question is this ; 
that although as long as this world lasts and men in it, the 
law of nature cannot be abrogated, because it is that law 
which is framed proportionable to man's nature ; yet it may 
be derogated, that is, lessened, or enlarged in instances, 
changed in the integrity of many of its particulars, made 
relative to several states and new necessities ; and this is 
that which, in true speaking, does affirm that the laws of 
nature may be changed. For although there are some pro- 
positions and decrees so general, that they are in their nature 
applicable to all variety of things, and therefore cannot be 
changed ; yet they are rather the foundation of laws than 
laws themselves : because a law must be mixed with a ma- 
terial part, it. must be a direction of actions, and a bond 
upon persons, which does suppose many things that can be 
changed : and, therefore, although the propositions, upon 
which the reasonableness and justice of the law does depend, 
serve to the contrary instances by analogy, and common 
influence, yet the law, being material, does not, and there- 
fore is alterable. But of this I shall give a fuller account in 
the ninth and tenth rules of this chapter. For the present I 

The want of considering this hath made difficulty in this 
question and errors in many. Every natural proposition is 
not a law ; but those antecedent propositions, by the pro- 
portions of which laws stand or fall, are the measures of 
laws. They are rules, not laws : and indeed the rules of 
nature are eternal and unalterable ; that is, all those natural 
and reasonable propositions which are dictates of prime rea- 
son, and abstract from all persons, and all states, and all 
relations: such as are 'God is to be honoured:' 'Justice 
is to be done:' 'Contracts are to be affirmed:' 'Reason 
is to be obeyed : ' ' Good is to be followed : ' ' Evil to be 
eschewed.' These are the common measures of all laws, 
and all actions : but these are made laws when they are pre- 
scribed to persons, and applied to matter : and when they 
are, because that matter can have variety, the law also can, 
though the rule cannot. 

That we are to restore all that was intrusted to us, is a 



natural law derived from the rule of doing justice ; but this 
may be derogated and prejudiced without sin. For prescrip- 
tion transfers the possession, and disobliges the fiduciary 
from restitution. 

By the law of nature relying upon the rule of performing 
contracts, clandestine marriages are valid and firm : but yet 
some churches, particularly the Church of Rome, in the 
Council of Trent, hath pronounced some marriages void, 
which, by the rule of nature, and afterwards by a law, 
were rate and legal ; particularly, clandestine marriages, 
and marriages not clandestine by the ingress of one of the 
parties into religion, as is to be seen in the eighth session. 

By the law of nature a testimony under two or three 
witnesses may stand, but in the case of the accusation of 
a cardinal deacon in Rome, they require the concurrence 
of seven and twenty ; of a cardinal priest, sixty-four ; of a 
cardinal bishop, seventy and two, and, in England, one 
shall serve the turn, if it be for the king. In codicils the 
civil law requires five witnesses. In testaments there must 
be seven : when a controversy is concerning the eminence 
and prelation of excellent persons, fifteen are demanded. 
But if these things may be prejudiced by men, much more 
may they be altered by God. But this extends itself a little 
further. For in some of these instances, that which is a law 
of nature, becomes so inconvenient as to do much evil, 
and then it is to be estimated by a new rule ; and, therefore, 
the whole law is changed, when it comes to have a new 
measure, and the analogy of a new reason. 

Upon the account of these premises it follows, that it 
is but a weak distinction to affirm ' some things to be for- 
bidden by God, because they are unlawful ; and some to be 
unlawful, because they are forbidden.' For this last part of 
the distinction takes in all that is unlawful in the world, and 
therefore the other is a dead member and may be lopped off. 
So Ocbam 3 affirms against the more common sentence of 
the schools (as his manner is) ; " Nullus est actus malus, nisi 
quatenus a Deo prohibitus est, et qui non possit fieri bonus 
si a Deo praecipiatur, et e converse ; Every thing is good 
or bad according as it is commanded or forbidden by God, 

2. q. 19, ad 3, et 4. 


and no otherwise." For nothing is unlawful antecedently to 
God's commandment. Sin is a transgression of some law, 
and this law must be made by a superior, and there is no 
superior but who depends on God, and therefore his law is 
its measure. There are some things good, which God hath 
not commanded ; but then they are such which he hath com- 
mended by counsels, or analogies and proportions. But 
whatsoever is a sin, is so therefore because it is forbidden ; 
and without such a prohibition, although it might be unrea- 
sonable, yet it cannot be criminal or unjust. Since, there- 
fore, all measure of good and evil, in the intercourses of men, 
wholly rely upon the law of God, and are consequent to his 
will, although it can never be that we can have leave to be 
unjust or unchaste, that is, to do against a law in being with 
all its circumstances, yet the law may be so changed that 
the whole action which was forbidden, may bec6me per- 
mitted and innocent, and that which was permitted, may 
become criminal. I instance in the ahtyo/tigia, or * the con- 
junction of the nearest kindred,' which once was lawful, and 
ever since is become criminal. 

The purpose of this discourse is this; that we look no 
further for tables of the law of nature, but take in only those 
precepts which bind us Christians unto Christ our law- 
giver, who hath revealed to us all his Father's will. All the 
laws of Christ concerning moral actions are the laws of 
nature : and all the laws of nature, which any wise nation 
ever reckoned, either are taken away by God, or else are 
commanded by Christ. So that Christianity is a perfect 
system of all the laws of nature, and of all the will of God, 
that is, of all the obligatory will ; of all the commandments. 
In those things where Christianity hath not interposed, we 
are left to our natural liberty, or a 'jus permissivum, a 
permission,' except where we have restrained ourselves by 
contract or dedition. 



The Law of Nature is the Foundation of all Laws, and the 
Measure of their Obligation. 

FOR all good laws, and all justice, hath the same reasonable- 
ness, the same rules and measures, and are therefore good 
because they are profitable, and are therefore just, because 
they are measured by the common analogies and propor- 
tions ; and are therefore necessary, because they are bound 
upon us by God mediately or immediately. And, therefore, 
Cicero 8 defined virtue to be " perfecta et ad summum per- 
ducta natura," or, " animi habitus naturae modo, rationi con- 
sentaneus," b "The perfection of nature," or, "a habit of 
mind agreeing to natural reason." But more expressly and 
full in his second book * de Legibus:' c "Lex est, justorum 
injustorumque distinctio, ad illam antiquissimarn et rerum 
omnium principern expressa naturam, ad quam leges hominum 
diriguntur, quae supplicio improbos afficiunt, defendunt ac 
tuentur bonos ; A law is the distinction of good and bad, of 
just and unjust, expressed or fitted to nature, which is the 
first and the prince of all, and to which human laws are 
directed for the punishment of evil-doers, and the defence of 
the good." And it is evident in all the moral precepts of 
Christianity : all which are so agreeable to a man's felicity 
and state of things, to which a man is designed both here 
and hereafter, that a man cannot be happy without them : 
and, therefore, they all rely upon some prime natural reason, 
which reason, although possibly some or all of it was dis- 
covered to us by revelation and the wise proper discourses 
of the religion, and was not generally known to men before 
Christ, yet the reasons are nothing but consonancies to 
our state and being, introductive of felicity, perfective of 
our nature, wise, and prudent, and noble, and such which, 
abstracting from the rewards hereafter, are infinitely eligi- 
ble, and to be preferred for temporal regards before their 

* De Leg. i. c. 8. Davis. Rath. p. 38. 
b De Invent, ii. sect. 159. Proust, p. 278. 
c De Leg. ii. c. 5. Davis. Rath. p. 111. 


Add to this, they are such which some few the wisest of 
the heathens did teach by natural reason, for aught we 
know. And there is a proportion of this truth also in all the 
wise laws of commonwealths ; the reasons of which are 
nothing but the proportions of nature, and the prime pro- 
positions of justice, common utility, and natural necessity. 
And, therefore, supposing that every civil constitution sup- 
plies the material part or the instance, every civil law is 
nothing but a particular of the natural law in respect of its 
formality, reasonableness, and obligation. And all laws of 
manners are laws of nature : for there can be but one justice, 
and the same honesty and common utility, in the world ; and 
as a particular reason is contained in the universal, so is the 
particular profit in the public : " Saluti civium prospexit, qua 
intelligebat contineri suam," said Torquatus 6 in Cicero, and 
so it is in laws. In the observation of the laws of nature, 
the good of every society and every private person is com- 
prised ; and there is no other difference in it, but that in 
every civil constitution there is something superadded ; not 
to the reasonableness or justice, but it is invested with a 
body of action and circumstances. " Jus civile neque in 
totum a naturali ac gentium jure recedere, neque per omnia 
ei servire ; adeo ut cum juri communi aliquid additur vel 
detrahitur, jus proprium, id est, civile efficiatur," said Jus- 
tinian : f " The civil law neither does wholly recede from the 
law of nature and nations, neither does it wholly serve it: for 
when any thing is added or detracted from the natural law, 
it becomes the civil :" and another; " Leges positives repe- 
tunt jus naturae quum leges sive pactiones quae sunt jura 
attingunt utilitatem et scopum naturae ; The positive laws 
of a commonwealth repeat the law of nature, when laws 
and covenants do promote the profit and this design of 

But from hence it follows that the law of nature is the 
only rule and measure of all laws, and superinduced laws of 
God and man are but instances of obedience in those general 
precepts of nature : and since the law of Christianity contains 
in it all the law of nature ; and is now the only law that can 
oblige us primarily, and others in virtue of it : it is the prime 

De Finib. f Lib. vi. ff. de Justit. et Jure. 


and adequate rule and measure of conscience, and the expli- 
cation of all its precepts will be a full institution of con- 
science : to which purpose that saying of Laelius in Cicero, g 
is very pertinent : "Viros bonos appellandos esse putamus, 
qui assequuntur (quantum homines possunt) naturam, opti- 
inani bene vivendi ducem ; Nature is the best guide and 
measure of living well : and they who exactly observe her 
measures as far as men can, are to be called good men." 


The first and greatest Band of the Law of Nature is 
Fear of Punishment. 

I HAVE already spoken of this as it is the act and effect of 
conscience : here I am to speak of it more abstractedly, 
and as itself hath effect upon human actions ; there as it 
is the minister of the judge ; here as it is the sanction of 
the law. 

" Omne malum aut timore aut pudore natura suffudit," 
said Tertullian; a fear and shame are the waiters and 
handmaids of every sin, which nature hath provided for 
it. And indeed fear is the band of all laws. For although 
there is a pravity in the nature of injustice which natural 
reason hates, proceeding partly from the deficiency from the 
perfective end of nature and societies, which is served by 
justice ; partly from the consequent obloquy and disreputa- 
tion, which all wise men and all talking people put upon it 
(for they that do it themselves, speak ill of it in others) ; yet 
this is but a little. This is a part of the punishment of the 
breach of the natural law ; but not strong enough to make a 
firm obligation. Now in all laws there must be some penalty 
annexed, the fear of which may be able to restrain men from 
doing against the law ; which cannot be, unless the evil be 
greater than the benefit or pleasure of the prevarication can 
be ; and therefore it is, that God establishing this law hath 
appointed a court within us, a severe judge, who will not 

B De Amicit. Wetzel, c. 5. sect xi. p. 153. Apolog. c. L 


spare ; a wise discerner, who will not be deceived ; an exact 
remembrancer, which never forgets any thing that can do the 
greatest mischiefs : a just witness, who will not be suborned, 
and is conscious and privy to all that which he is to judge ; 
and the same also is the executioner of the delinquent and 
sinning people. 

The stings of conscience, and fear of the Divine vengeance, 
is this evil which naturally restrains us ; it is the greatest 
restraint, because it is the greatest of evils, and it is un- 
avoidable, and it is natural. I will not add it is lawful to 
abstain from evil for fear of punishment, but it is necessary, 
and it is natural, and that is more, and this is it which 
Epicurus taught, clx. a'XXw TIV! rqg adixiag btiv a.KiigyfT'v 75 <p6/3<fj 
xoXdffsuv ; which, although Plutarch seems angry at, was well 
enough spoken by him : meaning that " it is a fear, not of 
temporal discovery and civil punishment, which is only 
appointed to restrain evil actions, but a fear of those evils 
whose apprehension God hath made necessary and congenite 
with the nature of man;" fear of God's displeasure, and the 
destruction of our nature and felicities relying upon that 
natural love of ourselves, and desire of our own preservation, 
without which a man cannot be supposed sufficiently pro- 
vided with principles of necessary being and providence. 

There is another kind of fear of punishment, that is, a 
fear of those auxiliary punishments which princes and repub- 
lics have superadded to the breakers of natural laws, which 
is in some men, who are despisers of all the evils which are 
threatened hereafter : such as was that of Thrasymachus, in 
Plato : b " Nihil esse melius quam facere injuriam neque 
poenas dare, nihil pejus quam pati nee posse ulcisci; medio 
autem modo se habere justitiam, cum quis nee facit nee 
patitur : quod ut fiat, esse optabile ; sed nempe imbecillibus, 
quorum proinde interest pacisci aut servare pacta, non autem 
valentioribus, qui si viri fuerint ac sapuerint, nullatenus 
pactum de injuria non inferenda accipiendave sint inituri; 
Nothing is better than to do injury without punishment; 
nothing worse than to suffer mischief, and to be able to do 
none again ; in the midst of these is justice, which neither 
does injury, nor receives any, which is much to be desired ; 

>> 7. De Repub. 


but by whom ? By none but by weak people. For the 
stronger, if they be valiant and wise, will never enter into 
covenants concerning not doing or receiving injury." Ac- 
cording to this doctrine, there should be nothing of itself 
just or unjust; and if there were, it were not to be re- 
garded, but so long as justice were profitable, and injustice 
troublesome and dangerous. And, therefore, strong men or 
crafty might, in many cases, be exempt from contracts and 
from doing justice, and would neither do right nor take 

Against this it is that all wise men in the world do speak : 
" Vos autem, nisi ad populares auras inanesque rumores, 
recta facere nescitis ; et relicta couscientiae virtutisque prae- 
stantia de alienis praemia sermunculis cogitatis," said Boe- 
tius, c in indignation against all those who took accounts of 
themselves by public noises, not by the testimonies of a just 
conscience, that is, who fear man, but do not fear God. 
And to do good out of fear of punishment (in this sense) is 
to do good no longer than I am observed, and no longer 
than I am constrained : from both which, because very many 
men are very often freed, and all men sometimes, there 
would be no habit, no will, no love of justice in the world; 
that is, there would be no virtue of justice, but single actions 
as it could happen. This would introduce horrid tyrannies, 
while princes and generals, having power in their hands, 
might do all things as they pleased, and have no measure but 
their own private : and all men's conditions under them 
would be always precarious, and arbitrary, and most com- 
monly intolerable : and, therefore, this fear is the character- 
ism of evil persons, 

Oderunt peccare mali formidine poenae. 

And against such, civil laws are made : " Justis lex non est 
posita," saith St. Paul ; " The law is not made for the right- 
eous, but for the wicked." If the sons of Israel had con- 
tinued pious, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were, the law 
should not have been given to them as it was upon Mount 
Sinai; but the necessities of men brought a law upon them, 
and that law a punishment, while good men 

' De Consol. Philosoph. 


a voiovffiv eixovrsg o't XO/TO/ dia, TOV vopov, as Xenocrates, in Laer- 
tius, said of the philosophers; they do it 

Sponte sua, veterisque Dei so more tenentes, d 

for the love of God ; by choice and delight in the actions of 
virtue, they do excellent things, " Plusque ibi boni mores 
valent quani alibi bonae leges," as Tacitus* said of the old 
Germans ; " Good manners prevailed more than good laws." 
Thus did the patriarchs, and therefore they needed not a law. 
" Vetustissimi mortalium, nulla adhuc mala libidine, sine 
probro, scelere, eoque sine pcena et coercitionibus agebant : 
neque praemiis opus erat, quum honesta suopte ingenio pete- 
rentur ; et, ubi nihil contra morem cupereut, nihil per metum 
vetabantur." f Our forefathers desired nothing against ho- 
nesty and injustice, and, therefore, were not forbidden any 
thing by the instrument of fear. 

But, therefore, the civil and positive law is not made for 
all those men who have other restraints ; that is, for good 
men who are moved by better principles ; but because these 
things that are better, are despised by the vicious and the 
tyrants, oppressors and the impudent, the civil power hath 
taken a sword to transfix the criminal, and to kill the crime. 
And, therefore, Epicurus, in Stobseus, said not amiss : " Laws 
were made for wise men, not for fear they should do ill, but 
lest they should suffer evil from the unjust." 

And yet even the wise and the good men have a fear in 
them, which is an instrument of justice and religion ; but it 
is a fear of God, not of the secular judge ; it is a fear that is 
natural, a fear produced from the congenite notices of things, 
and the fear of doing a base thing ; a fear to be a fool and 
an evil person. 

Mi natura dedit leges a sanguine ductas : 
Ne possim melior judicis esse metu ; 

said Cornelia, in Propertius : g a good man will abstain from 
all unrighteous things, though he be sure that no man should 
hear or see any thing of it, that is, though there were no 
laws, and superinduced punishments, in republics ; and all 

d JEneld. vii. 204. e Cap. xix. 

f Tacit. Ann. iii. 26. Ruperti, p. 150. 
8 Lib. ir. 11, 47. Kuinoel, vol. i. p. 412. 


this upon the account of such a fear, which a good man 
ought to have, a fear of being a base person, or doing vile 

Imposito tenerse custode puellse 

Nil agis'; ingenio quaeque tuenda suo est ; 
Siqua metu dcinpto casta est, ea denique casta est ; 

Quae quia non liceat, non facit, ilia facit. h 

That chastity is the noblest, which is not constrained by 
spies and severity, by laws and jealousy : when the mind is 
secretly restrained, then the virtue is secured. Cicero' puts 
a case to Torquatus : *' Si te amicus tuus moriens rogaverit, 
ut hereditatem reddas suae filiae, nee usquam id scripserit, ut 
scripsit Fadius, nee cuiquam dixerit; quid facies?" Arun- 
canus dies, and leaves his inheritance to his daughter, 
Postumia, and intrusts his friend Torquatus with it, but 
privately, without witness, without consignation of tables : 
will Torquatus, who is a feoffee in private trust, restore this 
to the child, when she shall be capable ? Yes , Torquatus 
will, and Epicurus will ; and yet Cicero had scarce a good 
word for him, whom he hath fondly disgraced during all ages 
of the world, weakly and unjustly : but the account he gives 
of it is pertinent to the rule : k " Nonne intelligis, eo majorem 
vim esse naturae, quod ipsi vos, qui omnia ad vestrum com- 
modum, et, ut ipsi dicitis, ad voluptatem referatis, tamen ea 
faciatis, e quibus adpareat non voluptatem vos sed officium 
sequi? plusque rectam naturam, quam rationem pravam 
valere? " Nature is more prevalent than interest ; and sober 
men, though they pretend to do things for their real ad- 
vantage and pleasure, yet follow their duty rather than 
either pleasure or profit, and right nature rather than evil 

The reason of this is, because nature carries fear and 
reverence in the retinue of all her laws ; and the evils which 
are consequent to the breach of natural laws, are really, and 
by wise men so understood to be, greater mischiefs than the 
want of profit, or the missing of pleasure, or the feeling the 
rods and axes of the prince. If there were no more in a 
crime than the disorder of nature, the very unnaturalness 

b Oyid. lib. iii. Eleg. 4, 1. Mitscherlich, rol. i. p. 185. 

2 De Finibus. Dav. Rath. c. xviii. p. 142. k Ib. p. 143. 


itself were a very great matter. St. Basil said well, 1 " Ad 
oinnia, quee descripta a nobis, a Deo prsecepta sunt, conse- 
quenda, naturales ab ipso facultates accepimus." God hath 
given to virtues natural organs, or bodily instruments ; as to 
mercy he appointed bowels, eyes for pity, hands for relief; 
and the proper employment of these is so perfective of a 
man's condition, according to their proportion, that not to 
employ them according to the purpose of nature is a disease, 
a natural trouble ; just as it is to trumpet with our mouth, 
which was intended for eating, and drinking, and gentler 
breathings. It is punishment enough to do an unnatural and 
a base action ; it puts our soul and its faculties from their 
centre, and the ways of perfection. And this is fully ob- 
served by Seneca : " Male de nobis actum erat, quod multa 
scelera legem et judicem effugiunt, et scripta supplicia, nisi 
ilia naturalia, et gravia de praesentibus solverent, et in locum 
patientiee timor cederet ; Mankind were in an ill state of 
provisions, if those wickednesses, which escape the law and 
the judge, did not suffer the more grievous inflictions of 
natural punishment, and fear came into the place of pa- 
tience ;" still fear is the bridle : but it is an honest fear, a 
fear of God, and of natural disorders and inconvenience. 
GO* ev ffv/j,(3o\a!oi$ TOA/T/XCO/J ov&s .sv d.yct'yogsvffzi voftov, XX' e 
jdiovreayias, xai r5j Kebg rbv Qtbv dyaV?jj ^ dixaioffwr), as Clemens 
of Alexandria calls it ; "a righteousness not produced by 
laws and the sword, fear and interest, but from the love of 
God," and something that is within : there is a fear, but it is 
such a fear as still leaves the love to virtue, and secures it in 
privacies, and enjoins the habit and constant practice of it: 
a fear that is complicated with a natural love of our own 
preservation, and is constant and measured by God, and in 
the natural limit cannot be extravagant ; a fear that acknow- 
ledges God's omniscience, and his omnipresence, and his 
eternal justice : and this was the sense of that of Sophocles : m 

rijof raiJTa, x/tuirrt ^jjSsv, us o -jraiff o(>av 
Ka< lea-fT axovuv, vratr Agaves- 

" Do nothing basely and secretly ; for time's Father sees 
and hears all things, and time will discover it, and truth 
shall be the daughter of time; and that which is done in 

1 Reg. Fusior, inter, f . m 'lx*tii/>s , frag. i. Musgrave, vol. ii. p. 225. 


secret shall be spoken upon the tops of houses :" so both 
the Christian and the heathen are conjoined in the several 
expressions of the same great truth. This fear is deposited 
in conscience, and is begotten and kept by this proposition, 
that " God is a rewarder of all men according to their works." 
Consequent to this is the love of virtue. 


The second Hand of Virtue is Love, and its proper and 
consequent Deliciousness. 

THIS is not wholly natural, but in much of it is empirical, 
8ugj/za %o6vov xai w'ow proceeding from the grace of God, and 
the experience of the deliciousness and rewards of virtue, and 
the excellence of a greater hope which does entertain our 
spirits in the outer courts of pleasant expectations : on IK 
<pi7^o(fo<pia,$ rovro avru! irtPty'syovt ri dvfT/raxrwf TO/S// a riveg dice, 
rbv utfb ruv vopuv fojSov Tro/oSov, as both Aristotle and Xenocrates 
did speak. It is the effect of philosophy and religion, of 
virtuous and severe institutions, to do that for love and with- 
out constraint, which fools, and vicious and weak persons, do 
for fear of laws. 

Now, this, I say, is not natural, that is, although it be 
agreeable to nature, yet not primarily introduced by it, with- 
out a tutor, because nature forbids injustice, but does not 
command justice, but secondarily, and by accident, and 
upon supposition of other contingencies. To do injustice is 
always a sin, but not to do a justice is not always. For a 
man may depose the person of a judge, or a trustee, or a 
delegate; but they who habitually do justice, find the 
rewards of reputation, and the ease of being freed from the 
torments of an evil conscience, which is a delicacy, like the 
being eased of the horrid gripes of the colic ; and so insen- 
sibly grow in love with justice, that they think they love 
justice for justice sake. 

Ipsa sui merces erat et sine vindice praeda. 

Concerning which it is fit we consider a little, lest it 
become the occasion of scruples and nice opinions. Anti- 


gonus Sochaeus, an old Jew, was famed for saying, ' Be not 
servants who serve their lord that they may receive a 
reward from him ; but be such who serve him without con- 
sideration of wages, or recompenses, and let the fear of God 
be upon you :' Baithus and Sadoc, his disciples, from whom 
the sect of the sadducees did spring, not well understanding 
him, took occasion from hence to deny the resurrection and 
rewards after this life. And, indeed, such sayings as these 
are easily abused ; and when some men speak great things, 
and others believe as much of it as they understand, but 
understand it not all, they make sects and divide their 
schools, and ignorance and faction keep the doors, and sit in 
the chairs sometimes. It is impossible a man should do 
great things, or suffer nobly, without consideration of a 
reward ; and since much of virtue consists in suffering evil 
things, virtue of herself is not a beatitude, but the way to 
one. He does things like a fool, who does it for no end : 
and if he does not choose a good end, he is worse : and 
virtue herself would, in many instances, be unreasonable, 
if, for no material consideration, we should undertake her 
drudgery : and, therefore, St. Austin said well, " Sublatis 
aeternis prsemiis et pcenis verum staturum a partibus Epicuri:" 
sensual pleasure were highly eligible, and not virtuous suf- 
ferings, ' if in this life only we had hope.' But if it be 
accounted the top of virtue to love virtue for virtue's sake, 
and without intuition of the reward ; many times good men 
observing that themselves are encouraged by all God's 
promises to obedience and patience, and that in martyrdom, 
there is no natural or sensitive pleasure, and that it cannot 
be loved for itself, but wholly for its reward, will find them- 
selves put into ' fear where no fear is,' and that a ' nequam 
humilitas,' an unworthy opinion of their duty, shall affright 
their peace and holy confidence. Peregrinus, the philoso- 
pher, in A. Gellius," expressed this love of virtue for itself, 
thus : " Etiamsi Dii atque homines ignoraturi forent ;" to do 
good though " neither God nor men should know of it:" 
but as this is impossible in fact, so it is in speculation : for 
there were no such thing as virtue, if it were not relative and 
directed to God or man : but yet the thing which they mean 
is very good. Good men love virtue for virtue's sake, 

Lib. xii. c. 11. 


that is, they act it and love it, they do it with so habitual 
and confirmed elections and complacency, that many times 
they have no actual intuition to the reward ; they forget this, 
they are so taken with that ; like a man that chooses a wife 
upon many considerations, as portion, family, hopes, and 
beauty ; yet when he hath conversed long with her, and finds 
her amiable and fruitful, obedient and t wise, he forgets all 
other considerations, and loves her person for her own per- 
fections, but will not quit all his other interests. The dif- 
ference is best understood by variety of motions. Some 
motions cannot be continued, unless some agent or other do 
continually urge them ; but they are violent and unnatural : 
others are perfective and loved, and they will continue and 
increase by their own principle, if they be not hindered. This 
is the love of virtue, that is, fear, or, it may be, hope ; save 
that hope is a thing between both, and is compounded of 
both, and is more commendable than fear. But to love 
virtue for itself, is nothing else but to love it directly and 
plainly; he that loves it only for the reward, and is not, by 
the reward, brought to love the thing, loves not this at all, 
but loves something else : but he that loves it at all, sees 
good in it, because he finds good by it ; and, therefore, loves 
itself, now, whatever was the first incentive : and the wooden 
arch may be taken away, when that of marble is concentered. 
2. " Vir fortis et Justus in summa voluptate est et 
periculo suo fruitur." " When a good man lays before him the 
price and redemption of his mortality, the liberty of his 
country, the safety of his friends, he is hugely pleased, and 
delights in and enjoys his danger. But if he feels not this 
pleasure, yet without trembling and uncertainty he will 
dare to die, ' facere recte pieque contentus ; ' and if you tell 
him, this reputation which he gets of his citizens, will die 
almost as soon as he shall die ; he answers, All those things 
are without the nature and consideration of my work : ' Ego 
ipsum contemplor, hoc esse honestum scio : ' 1 look upon the 
work itself, and find it honest ; " and that is enough; mean- 
ing secretly, that though these outward rewards were pared 
off, yet there are secret pleasures, which will follow and stick 
close to virtue, as the shadow does to the body, and this 
good men must consider, because they feel it, and that is 
part of the reward. 


3. They are pleased with the virtue itself, and their soul 
is as much delighted with it, and as naturally, as the eye with 
beauteous colours, or the throat with unctuous juices, or 
the tongue with moist sweetnesses. For God hath made 
virtue proportionally to all the noble ends and worthy de- 
sires of mankind, and the proper instrument of his felicity : 
and all its beauties, and all its works, and all its effects, and 
all that for which it can be loved, is part of the reward. And 
therefore, to say a man can love virtue for virtue's sake, and 
without consideration of the reward, is to say a man can love 
virtue without any reason and inducement, without any 
argument to move his affections. 

4. For there can be but two causes of amability in the 
world, perfection and usefulness ; that is, beauty and profit ; 
that in the thing itself, this as it relates to me : now he that 
says, ' a man may love virtue for its own sake without con- 
sideration of the reward,' says no more than that ' a man may 
love a flower which he never hopes to smell of;' that is, he 
may admire and commend it, and love to look on it, and just 
so he may do to virtue. But if he desires either, it is because 
it is profitable or useful to him, and hath something that will 
delight him ; it cannot else possibly be desired. 

Now to love virtue in the first sense is rather praise than 
love, an act of understanding rather than of the will, and its 
object is properly the perfections of the flower or the virtue 
respectively : but when it comes to be desired, that is, loved 
with a relation to myself, it hath for its object other per- 
fections, those things that please, and that delight me, and 
that is nothing but part of the reward or all of it. 

The question being thus explicated, it follows, that to 
love virtue for virtue's sake, is so far from being the honour 
of a good and perfect man, that it is the character of an evil 
man, if it goes no further. For it amounts to nothing but 
this, that the understanding is convinced of the worthiness 
of it, 

Video meliora proboque. b 

It is that which St. Paul calls "a delighting in the law after 
the inner man." But it is a relative, material, practical love 

b Ov. M. vii. 20. Gierig, vol. i. p. 421. 


of virtue that makes a good man ; and the proper inducement 
of that is also relative, material, and practical. 

Est profecto Deus, qui quae nos gerimus, auditque et videt, 
Bene mereuti, bene profuerit ; male merenti par erit ; 

said the comedian ; c " God hath so endeared justice and 
virtue to us, that he hearing and seeing all things, gives 
good things to them that do good things ; but he will be 
even with the evil man." 

5. Lastly, to love virtue for virtue's sake, is to love it 
without consideration of human rewards, praise of men, ho- 
nours, riches, rest, power, and the like, which indeed are the 
hinges of most men's actions. 

Cura, quid expediat, prius est, quam quid sit honestum ; 

Et cum fortuna statque caditque fides. 
Nee facile invenias multis in millibus unum, 

Virtutem pretium, qui putet, esse sui. 
Ipse decor, recte, facti si praemia desint, 

Non movet: et gratis poenitet esse probum. 
Nil, nisi quod prodest, carum est. d 

Now he that is a good man, and loves virtue virtuously, does 
not love it principally for these secular regards ; but without 
such low expectations, and without apprehension of the 
angry sentence of the laws ; but this does not exclude the 
intuition of the Divine reward from having an influence into 
the most perfect love of virtue ; for this is intrinsical to the 
sanction and the nature of the law ; the other is extrinsical 
and accidental. The first is such a reward as is the per- 
fection of the work ; for glory is the perfection of grace ; and 
he that serves God for hope of glory, loves goodness for 
goodness' sake ; for he pursues the interest of goodness, that 
he may be filled with goodness ; he serves God here that he 
may serve him hereafter : he does it well that he may do it 
better ; a little while that he may do it over again for ever 
and ever. Nothing else can be a loving virtue for virtue's 
sake ; this is the greatest perfection and the most reasonable 
and practicable sense of doing it. And if the rewards of 
virtue were not the great practical inducement of good men's 

c In Capt. Plaut. act. ii. seen. 2. Ernesti, vol.i. page 158. 
d Ovid. Ex Pout. ii. 3, 9. Harles, p. 378. 


love to goodness, all the promises of the Gospel were to no 
purpose in relation to the faith of good men, and therefore 
the greatest and the best part of faith itself would be useless : 
for there is no purpose or end of faith of the promises, but to 
enable our obedience, by the credibility and expectation of 
such promises, to do our duty. 

Now that even good men, even the best men, even all 
men, have a habitual regard to it, besides that it is impos- 
sible to be otherwise (for he that ploughs, does plough in 
hope), and will easily be understood to be so by them who 
know the causes and nature of things ; it appears also in the 
instance of as good a man as any story reports of, even 
Moses ; who " despised to be called the son of Pharaoh's 
daughter, because he had an eye to the recompense of re- 
ward :" and by the instance of all those brave persons whom 
St. Paul enumerates in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews; 
" who all died in faith, not having received the promises ;" 
but they looked for better, even such as were to come ; and 
beyond all this, our blessed Lord himself " despised shame, 
and endured the cross ;" but it was "for the glory that was 
set before him." e For it is the first and the greatest article 
of the Gentiles' creed, " Every one that comes to God, must 
believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that 
diligently seek him." 

11. The sum is this; although in nature herself, and in 
the conscience relating to her, there is a court punitive and 
a fear of God, yet the expectation of reward is rather put 
into us than born with us, and revealed rather than natural : 
and therefore the expectation of good is the second band of 
natural laws, but extrinsical and adventitious, communicated 
to us by revelation and by grace. 


The Imperfection of some Provisions in civil Laws is supplied 
by the natural Obligation remaining upon Persons civilly 

WHEN laws make provision of cases en! rb nXsTsrov, in as 
many things as they can foresee, or feel, and yet some things 

e Heb. xii. 2, 3. 


will emerge which cannot be foreseen, and some contrary 
reasons will arise; many times there is no care taken for 
some things and some persons by any constitutions of man. 
Here Nature, as the common parent of all justice and neces- 
sary obligations, takes the case into her protection. 

This happens in many cases : 

1. Human laws give measures of things and persons, 
which fit most men without a sensible error, but some it does 
not. Young persons are, at a certain age, declared capable 
of making profitable contracts ; at another age, of making 
contracts that are hazardous ; and they must stand to them, 
though they be mischievous. At one age they may marry ; 
at another, they may contract a debt ; at another, they may 
make a testament ; at another, they may be punished with 
capital inflictions. But in some persons, the malice is earlier 
and the wit more pregnant, and the sense of their advantages 
brisk enough : and therefore the contracts which they can 
make, and the actions which they do, and the part which 
they choose, are really made or done, or chosen ; but they are 
not bound to stand to it, by the civil law : and yet if they can 
choose, they are naturally obliged. Both of them are neces- 
sary : the civil law cannot provide but by common measures; 

Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum.' 

All their rules are made by as common a measure as they 
can, and they are the best rules that have the fewest ex- 
ceptions : the best carpenters make the fewest chips : but 
some there must be. But then it is necessary that nature 
should provide by single provisions in all the single excep- 
tions ; for it is necessary it should be done, and she only can 
do it. She can do it because nature hath provided and in- 
structed a judging and a discerning conscience ; and the 
person that contracts or receives a benefit, can bind himself 
to man as soon as he can bind himself to God ; because the 
laws of God bind all our contracts with men. That is, plainly 
thus, God's laws provide not only for general cases, but also 
for particular circumstances ; and of every thing God, and 
God's vicegerent, conscience, can take accounts ; and there- 
fore this abundance supplies the other's defect ; the perfection 



of God makes up the breaches of the imperfection of man. 
Which rule is to be understood both of things and persons. 
For all our duty is only an obedience to God: and every 
one that can hope or fear, is bound to this obedience; there- 
fore there can be no gap here : God hath, in every thing, 
shut up every person that can use reason, by some instrument 
or other. And therefore Cicero b said well, " Nee si regnante 
Tarquinio nulla erat Romae scripta lex de stupris, idcirco 
non contra illam legem sempiternam Sextus Tarquinius vim 
Lucretise Tricipitini filiae adtulit: erat enim ratio profecta a 
rerum natura, et ad recte faciendum impellens, et a delicto 
avocans; There was no civil constitution against rapes, 
but Tarquin ought not to have done it: for there was an 
eternal law against it. For right reason, proceeding from 
nature, drives us on to good, and calls us off from evil:" 
that is, he could not but know it was ill, and against reason, 
and against every thing by which he ought to be governed ; 
and even to the heathen God was not wanting, but bound 
these laws upon them by reason, and inclination, and ne- 
cessity, and fame, and example, and contract, and hope, 
and fear, and by secret ways which we know not of. He 
made some inclinations and some reason to become laws, 
that mankind might not live like beasts and birds of prey : 
in all cases, and in all times, and to all persons, he became a 
lord and a lawgiver, some way or other. 

Young persons, of twelve or fourteen years old, can be 
saved or damned; they can love or hate; they can under- 
stand yea and nay; they can do a good turn or a shrewd; 
they can lead a blind man right or wrong; they can bear 
true or false witness: and although the civil laws, out of 
care lest their easiness be abused by crafty people, make 
them secure from it by nulling the contract, that the de- 
ceiving person may not reap the harvest of his fraud, yet there 
are very many cases in which the minor receives advantage, 
or at the least no wrong ; and though it was fit he should 
be secured, it was not fit he should be enabled to do a 
mischief to another, " ut levamen his, aliis sit onus," as St. 
Paul in a like case, " that they be eased, and others burdened." 
For although the other contractor be sufficiently warned to 

b Lib. ii. de Leg. c. 4. Davis. Rath. p. 107. 


take heed of the minor, yet there may be need in it, or 
charity, friendship, or confidence ; all or any of which, if they 
might be deceived, the minor would suffer often, but the 
other contractor but once. Therefore, as the civil law se- 
cures them from harm, so the law of nature binds them to 
do none, but to stand to such contracts in which they have 
advantage or equality, and in which they were not abused. 
The time when they come to be obliged, is the time when 
they come to the use of reason, when they understand their 
duty, when a prudent man judges them fit to be contracted 
with, when they can use fraud to others, when they can 
consider whether they be bound or no : these are the best 
marks and signatures of the time, and declare the obligation 
in all cases, where there is no deception evident. 

2. Sometimes both parties can contract; but because 
they, doing it without witnesses, may recede from it, either 
conseutingly or against the will of one of them, the positive 
constitution of man intending to provide against this incon- 
venience, hath cut the civil tie in pieces, and refuses to verify 
the contract, besides that it cannot legally be proved. In 
this case, nature relieves the oppressed party, and supplies 
the easiness of the civil band, and strains that hard which 
the others let loose. And this happens in clandestine con- 
tracts: against which, in the matter of marriage, all Christian 
countries have made severe edicts: but in case they be done, 
in some places they are pronounced valid, in some places 
declared null. Where they are nulled, nature is defeated in 
making provisions, and the parties are warranted to do a 
mischief. For if Mauritius and Cluviena contract marriage, 
and Mauritius repent his bargain, where shall Cluviena be 
relieved? The law of the Church forbids it, and will punish 
her for doing it if she complains. The civil law takes no 
notice of it, for it cannot be legally proved: and the law of 
nature is barred out, if it be declared null ; and then there 
is nothing left to hold him. It is the case of the Church of 
Rome, c who, in the eighth session of the Council of Trent, 

c Navarrus Enchirid. c. xxv. Et congregatio Cardinalium, quos tails et tarn 
putidi pudebat decreti, directe negaut rem fact am aut dictam, et sponsalia 
elandestina, etiam post concilia, rata manere, sicut et ante. Consuluerunt 
scilicet, fa in a; concilii, non propriae, qui rem tarn certam, verba tarn plaiia 

negare pal am non erubueruuf. 


declares all clandestine contracts to be null, and their mixtures 
to be fornication and uncleanness. But they have overacted 
their zeal against a temporal inconvenience, and burn their 
house to roast an egg ; they destroy a law of nature by a 
law of the Church, against the former practices, counsels, 
and resolutions, even of their own Church. For if those 
contracts are in themselves naturally valid and not forbidden 
by God, then they cannot rescind them ; if they be not 
naturally valid, since they were always positively forbidden, 
why were they esteemed valid for so many ages ? For till 
that council they were so ; but finding that the former pro- 
hibitions were not strong enough, they took this course to 
break them all in pieces : and out of desire to prevent an 
accidental evil, they made it more ready to be done. For it 
was before but feared, lest they should recede : but yet if 
they did, they were esteemed adulterers if they married 
again : and they themselves knew, when they were pre- 
contracted ; and therefore stood convicted and pinched in 
their own consciences, so long as the old laws remained, and 
men did not receive warrants to break the most sacred bands 
in the world : but by this nullifying the contract, they have 
not only leave to go off, but are commanded ; and if they 
be weary of this, they may contract with another, and there 
is nothing to hinder them, if nature does not. This nullity, 
therefore, is a vehement remedy that destroys the patient j 
besides that it is against the law of nature. The laws may 
forbid it to be done ; but if it be, they cannot rescind it : 
because the civil constitution is less than the natural, and 
convenience is less than conscience, and man is infinitely 
less than God. 

3. Some pretend to do a greater good, and to do it, break 
a contract justly made ; and if the civil constitution allows it, 
the law of nature reclaims and relieves the injured person. 
This was the case of the Pharisees, who denied to relieve 
their parents, out of zeal to fill the treasure of the temple, 
and thought that their voluntary religion excused from their 
natural duty. The Church of Rome gives leave to either of 
the persons, who are married solemnly and contracted rightly, 
to recede from their vow and enter into religion, and declares 
the marriage separate and broken. Here nature calls upon 
the obliged party, and ought to prevail above any other 


pretence, it being first in possession and faster in obliga- 
tion; and if it be naturally an evil to break a lawful contract 
made without fraud, and which is in our power to keep, 
then it ought not to be done for any good in the world. 

4. Hither also are to be reduced, obligations byunsolemn 
stipulations, by command of parents, by intermination of 
curses, by mere delict amongst persons, against whom lies 
no civil action, as of servants to their lords, sons to their 
fathers: concerning which proper accounts are to be given 
in their own places. Here only they are to be noted in the 
general observation of cases, in which the law of nature hath 
made an obligation, when the civil power could not, or would 
not, or did not, against it. 

But it is proper to discuss a difficult question, which 
intervenes upon this rule. The case is this : By the law of 
nature, every man hath power to make a testament of his 
own goods; but the civil law requires conditions of every 
testator, that the testament shall be ratified by so many 
witnesses, or else it shall be invalid. Sempronius, dying, 
leaves Caius his heir, and gives but a, small portion to his 
son, Porcius, but declares this by an unsolemn testament. 
The like may happen in all donations and actions to which 
any solemnities of law are required. 

Quest. The question is, whether the estate be due to 
Caius by the law of nature, or is not Porcius the son to be 
relieved by the civil constitution, which makes the unsolemn 
testament to be invalid ? To this it is commonly answered, 
that to make a testament is not a law of nature, but a right 
only ; which as a man may himself relinquish, so may the 
public laws restrain for the public good ; for there being so 
many frauds in pretended testaments, it is necessary that 
provisions should be made to prevent the infinite evils that 
may happen. Now whatsoever is necessary, is also just ; 
if the necessity be public, real, and unavoidable by other 
means: and if it be just, the public power hath sufficient 
authority to restrain any man's right for every man's good. 

2. Every sentence of the judge in a clear case, that binds 
in law, does also bind in conscience; but if the judge of civil 
actions did know that Sempronius really did appoint the 
stranger Caius his heir, yet, by the law, he were bound to 
declare for the son, Porcius, and that the real unsolemn will 


of Sempronius were to be accounted nothing : so that 
although the law were made to prevent fraud, yet even when 
there is no fraud, and the judge knows there is none, yet the 
unsolemn testament is to be declared invalid by the law : 
which law, because it is just, and for a just cause, and by a 
competent authority, must bind in conscience by the force of 
the words of St. Paul : " Let every soul be subject to the 
higher powers." And therefore, if the law be good, and 
the judge just, in giving the inheritance from Caius to 
Porcius, certainly Caius must needs be unjust, if he de- 
tains it. 

3. And this very thing is consented to in the canons of 
the Church, which are usually framed, and ever to be pre- 
sumed, " ubi contrarium non constat," to be more agreeable 
to the measures of conscience ; and yet in the canon law, a 
testament framed and signed in the presence of two witnesses 
is not good, unless the parish-priest be present; and that no 
man can lawfully detain a legacy upon the warrant of such a 

4. For since every act of man consists of the potestative 
and elective faculties, if either will be wanting, or power, the 
act is invalid. It is not therefore enough, though the will be 
manifest and confessed ; for if the man have no power, his 
will is ineffective. 

But this opinion, though relying upon fair probabilities 
and great authority, is not to be assented to as it lies, but 
with great caution and provisions. For a right of nature 
cannot be taken away by a civil power, entirely and habitually, 
but only ' quoad exercitum actus :' the exercise of the act of 
that right may, indeed, be impeded for great reasons and to 
prevent great evils. Since, therefore, the power of making 
testaments is a natural right, and is wholly suspended in its 
act to prevent fraud in unsolemn testaments, where the case 
is evident and no fraud at all, although the civil law is still 
valid, because, it being established upon a general cause, 
though it fails in a particular, it does not fail in the general, 
and therefore still is rate and firm ; yet because it does fail 
in the particular, where that is known, there is a port open 
for chancery, for considerations of piety and religion. And, 
therefore, although in the case put, Porcius, who is the 
natural heir of Sempronius, is to take advantage of the civil 


law against Caius; yet if Sempronius had made an unsolemn 
testament in behalf of his natural heir, that ought to have 
stood in the court of conscience. My reason is, because, in 
the law of nature, Porcius, the son, hath as much natural 
right to inherit, as Sempronius, the father, hath to make a 
testament; and therefore, although an unsolemn testament 
shall not be sufficient to interrupt a natural succession, 
because the rights of nature on either hand are equal, yet 
the civil power can restrain his right, when there is nothing 
complicated with it : for his own consent is involved in the 
public constitution, and he may consent to the diminution of 
his own right, when no duty is infringed, that is, in those 
things where only his own rights are concerned. 

When, therefore, any thing of the law of nature is twisted 
with the right of nature, there is an obligation passed which 
the civil constitution cannot annul. As if Sempronius com- 
mand his son- in an unsolemn testament, in private and 
without witnesses, to give such a legacy to Titius, his nephew; 
although Titius cannot challenge it by virtue of that testa- 
ment, yet the son is bound to pay it by the law of nature : 
for civil constitutions have effect upon a mere right, but 
none against a duty of nature: and therefore, although the 
testament of Sempronius shall not pass into legal, external, 
judicial warranty, yet it binds the son, and is valid as to him 
by the law of nature and conscience. And this was rarely 
well affirmed by Pliny : d " Hoc, si jus adspicias, irritum ; si 
defuncti voluntatem, ratum et firmum est. Mihi autem de- 
functi voluntas (vereor, quam in partem jurisconsulti, quod 
sum dicturus, accipiant) antiquior jure est ; If we regard 
the civil law, such testaments are invalid ; yet if we regard 
the will of the testator, it is firm : but though I know not 
how the lawyers will take it, yet to me the will of the dead 
is to be preferred before the law :" and more fully yet to 
Annianus : e "Tu quidem pro csetera tua diligentia admones 
me, codicillos Aciliani, qui me ex parte instituit hseredem, 
pro non scriptis habendos, quia non sunt confirmati testa- 
mento; quod jus ne mihi quidem ignotum est, cum sit iis 
etiam notum, qui nihil aliud sciunt. Sed ego propriam 

* Lib. v. ep. 7, 2. Gierig. vol. i. p. 420. 
Lib. ii. ep. 16, 1-3. Gierig. vol. i. p. 170. 


quandam legem mihi dixi, ut defunctorum volnntates, etiam 
si jure deficerentur, quasi perfectas tuerer. Constat autem 
coclicillos istos Aciliani manu scriptos. Licet ergo non sint 
confirmati testamento, a me tamen, ut confirmati, observa- 
buntur: Every one that knows any thing, knows, that, 
in law, unsolemn testaments are invalid : but I have another 
law of my own; if I know it was really the will of the 
dead, I will verify it though it want the solemnity of law:" 
and this also was affirmed by Innocentius, saying, " Elec- 
tionem quae juri naturae consentit, licet non serventur, juris 
solennitates tenere."' 

And there is great reason and great piety in this sense of 
the question ; for when a duty is anyways concerned, there 
is something owing to God, which no human power can or 
ought to prejudice. For it is in testaments, where any duty 
of any one is engaged, as it is in contracts of marriage, to 
which every one that can choose, is capable of being naturally 
obliged : now the relative of the obligation cannot in human 
courts claim either the advantage of an unsolemn testament, 
or unsolemn arid clandestine contract, yet the relative who is 
obliged to duty, cannot be so quitted : and, therefore, the 
father can oblige a son in duty to perform an unsolemn 
testament ; and every contracted person is bound to perform 
privately, what the other cannot challenge publicly : and this 
is not obscurely intimated by the law : g " Ex imperfecto autein 
testamento voluntatem tenere defunct! non volumus, nisi inter 
solos liberos a parentibus utriusque sexus ;" viz. " nisi liberi 
in sola dividenda haereditate voluntatem habeant patris." h 

And, for the confirmation of all this, it is remarkable, 
that they who affirm an unsolemn testament to be utterly 
invalid, and that the law of nature is no remedy in this case, 
yet affirm that it is of force in the matter of piety ; as in 
donations to churches, the poor, and pious uses, as appears 
in Imola, Ananus, Antonius Rubeus, Covarruvias, and 
others : which concession of theirs could not be reasonable 
or consistent with their opinion, but that it is made so by 
the foregoing considerations ; which certainly are the best 
medium to reconcile duty and prudence, the laws natural and 

f Cap. Quod, sicut : cle election. e L. hac consultissima C. de testam. 

h Gloss. 


civil, the right of a man with the government of a common- 
wealth, and to state the question between the two parties 
who earnestly dispute it to contrary purposes. 

For although the question is probably disputed on both 
sides, yet there are on either hand instances, in which the 
solemnity of the law does, and does not, oblige respectively: 
which shews, that the probability is, on either hand, right 
and true ; and the thing, as it lies in the middle, hath nothing 
certain or resolved ; but is true or false, as it partakes of 
differing reasons. Now the reason of the whole is ; because 
the solemnity of law is wholly to be regarded, where there is 
not a bigger obligation ; where God hath not bound, and 
man hath bound, man is to be obeyed : but where God hath 
bound directly, there God is to be obeyed, whatever be pre- 
tended by men : but if God hath only bound indirectly and 
collaterally, as if it be a case favourable and pious, there the 
solemnity of law, which is against it, is not to prevail ; but 
yet is to prevail in the behalf and prosecution of it. 

Thus if a pupil makes a contract in his minority to his 
ruin, or signal detriment, he is to be relieved by the advan- 
tage of the civil law, which makes his contract invalid, 
because the person is declared incompetent; and he may 
lawfully take his remedy ; and is not bound by the law of 
nature to verify it : because he being less naturally capable 
to contract, the other is, by the law of nature, bound not to 
do him injury, and take unequal advantages when every man 
hath equal right : and therefore, if he does prevaricate the 
natural law of justice, which is equality, he also may lose the 
privilege which the other's action passed unto him ; for the 
civil law declaring that minors shall not be prejudiced, makes 
up that justice or equality which nature intends. For the 
minor, with his less portion of understanding, and the de- 
fensative and retreat given him by the civil law, is made 
equal to the contractor who is perfect in his natural capacity. 
Equality must be done and had. And this is one way of 
inferring it. 

Another way is : if the minor receives advantage by the 
bargain, then there is equality ; for the want of his natural 
capacity is supplied by the advantageous matter ; and there- 
fore such contracts are valid, though the one of the con- 
tractors be legally incapable. But, 


3. If the bargain gave some advantage on either side, 
the minor must not take the advantage offered him by the 
civil law to himself, unless he allow to the other his share of 
advantage in the bargain : for otherwise there is inequality. 

4. Neither one nor the other is to be done, nor the con- 
tract to be rescinded, if the person was naturally capable, 
that is, unless it be apparent by the consciousness of his own 
weakness, or the iniquity and folly of the contract, that he 
was less in nature than the other; and therefore, in this case, 
the civil law, rescinding the contract of the minor, does 
declare that he is incapable naturally as well as civilly : and 
the civil constitution does no way interfere with the natural, 
but ministers to it ; making the natural instance even with 
the natural reason : for this being always alike, from the first 
to the last, the instance growing from imperfection to per- 
fection, must in the progression be defended and supplied 
and be fitted to the other. 

But in general, the rule is true, which Panormitan affirms 
in prosecution of what I have now disputed : " Quando jus 
civile aliquid disponit contra jus naturae, standum est juri 
naturae:" and in particular to this very instance of unsolemn 
testaments, Pope Alexander III. being asked, whether, accord- 
ing to the custom that was in the diocese of Ostia, a will could 
be valid, which was not attested by seven or five witnesses 
at least, gave in answer,' " Tales leges a divina lege et 
sanctorum patrum institutis et a generali ecclesiae consue- 
tudine esse alienas ; et ideo standum esse contra illas jure 
naturali, secundum quod ' in ore duorum aut trium stat omne 
verbum.'" Which words of his I only admit so far as they 
are agreeable to the former measures and limitation. For 
that a word is true, under the test of two or three witnesses, 
is not a prohibitive law or command of nature ; but it was 
urged by our blessed Saviour to the Jews as a thing admitted 
to their law, and it is agreeable to the law of nature; but yet 
not so, but that a greater caution may be, in some cases, 
introduced by the civil constitution, as I affirmed above : k 
viz. when the innocent and equal state of nature, to which 
such simplicity or small duplicate of testimonies were 

1 Cap. Cum esses de testa. k Rule x. n. 51. 


sufficient, becomes changed by frauds and artifices of evil 
men, or new necessities are introduced, which nature did 
not foresee, and therefore did not provide for, but God hath 
provided for them by other means, even by a power given to 
the civil magistrate. 

Lastly, to make up the measures and cautions of this 
discourse complete, it is to be added, that when the civil 
laws annul an unsolemn contract or testament, it is meant, 
that such are to be declared null, when they come into 
judgment ; not that the action, or translation of any dominion, 
inheritance, or legacy, is ' ipso facto' void: and, therefore, 
he that is possessed of any such, is not tied to make voluntary 
restitution, or to reveal the nullity of the donation, but to 
depart from it, when he is required by law : for he hath the 
advantage of a natural right or power in the donor, and that, 
being first, must stand till it be rescinded by a competent 
power; for the whole question being but probable on either 
side, the possessor, or the donee, hath the advantage till a 
stronger than he comes and takes away that in which he 


Sins against the Laws of Nature are greater or less, not by 
that Proportion, but by the greatness of the Matter, and 
the Evil consequent, or the Malice of the Sinner. 

THIS rule is intended to remedy a greater error, that is in 
the world and prevails very much to the abuse of men's 
persuasions in many cases of conscience ; viz. that all sins, 
which are unnatural, are the worst : and to be a sin against 
nature is the highest aggravation of it in the world : which 
if it were true in * thesi,' yet, because when it comes to be 
reduced to practice, it is wrapped up in uncertain notices, it 
ought to be more warily handled. For when men have first 
laid huge loads of declamations upon all natural rights and 
natural wrongs, and then endeavour to draw forth a col- 
lective body of natural laws, and they have done it by 
chance or as they please, they have put it within their 
own powers to make what things they list as execrable as 


murder or blasphemy, without any other reason but that 
they have called them unnatural sins. 

Concerning which these things are considerable : 
1. All sins against nature are no more the most detestable 
than all sins against God : because if the kind of sins, or the 
general reason or object of its irregularity, were all that were 
considerable in this, nothing could be the aggravation of a 
sin more than this, that it were against God. Now, be- 
cause all sins are against God, and yet amongst them there 
is difference, the greatness of this appellative is not the only 
thing that is considerable. But this is, that as all sins are 
against God, so all are against nature, someway or other; 
and the reason that concludes against every sin, is that 
reason that is common to all wise men ; and therefore it 
must be also natural : I do not mean, taught us without the 
help of revelation or institution, but such as all men, when 
they are taught, find to be really, and in the nature of things 
so constituted, to be reasonable. 

All voluntary pollutions are sins against nature ; because 
they are satisfactions of lust in ways otherwise than nature 
intended : but they are not, all of them, worse than adultery 
or fornication. For although all such pollutions are besides 
nature's provisions and order, yet some of them are more 
single evils than fornication ; which although it be against 
nature too, because it dishonours the body, yet it is by name 
forbidden in the commandment, which some of the others 
are not, but come in by consequence and attendance; and 
fornication includes the crime of two, which the other does 
not always ; and it is acted with more vile circumstances and 
follies, and loss of time, and other foul appendages. It is 
said to be against nature to approach a woman during her 
natural separations. But if it be a sin (which I shall con- 
sider in its due place), yet it is of the smallest consequence 
and malignity ; so that for a sin to be against nature, does 
only denote its material part, or the body of it ; but does not 
always superinfuse a venom and special malignity, or great- 
ness of crime, into it, above other sins. But it is according 
as the instance is. Every sin against the duty we owe to 
our parents, is unnatural : but they have their heigh tenings 
and diminutions from other accounts, and in this they have 
variety. And it is observable, that there were some laws 


made concerning some of these and the like instances in the 
judicial law of Moses : but none in the moral : and therefore, 
that the irregularity in some of these cases, though it hath 
met with a foul appellative, yet is to be esteemed by more 
certain proportions than such casual appellations. 

2. The breach of a commandment is a surer rule to judge 
of sins, than the doing against a natural reason. For there 
are many things, which are unreasonable, which are not un- 
lawful : and some things which are, in some circumstances, 
reasonable, but yet, in the law, forbidden and irregular: such 
are all those things which are permitted for the hardness of 
our hearts. So was polygamy to the patriarchs and to the 
Jews. So is the breach of laws by a universal deficiency 
of the people : which though it be infinitely unlawful, yet, 
for the unreasonableness in punishing all, it becomes per- 
mitted to all. Therefore, to estimate the goodness or bad- 
ness of an action by its being reasonable or unreasonable, is 
infinitely fallacious, unless we take in other measures. It is 
unreasonable that a man should marry when he is fourscore 
years old ; but it is not unlawful. It is unreasonable for 
an old man to marry a young maiden ; but I find no sin 
in it. Nothing is more against nature than to marry June 
and December ; and it is unnatural to make productions by 
the mixture of a horse and an ass; and yet it is done without 
scruple. But in these and the like cases, the command- 
ment, and nothing else, is the measure of right and wrong. 

3. When the measure of the commandment is observed, 
the degree of the sin is not to be derived from the greatness 
nor smallness of its unreasonableness in its own nature, nor 
yet by its contradicting a prime or a secondary reason. 

The reason of the first is, because there are no degrees 
of reason in the nature of things. Reason is an indivisible 
thing, simple as the understanding ; and it only receives 
increase by numbers, or by complication with matter and 
relations. It is as unreasonable to think a thought against 
God, as to kill a man. It is as unreasonable and unnatural 
to speak against experience, as against a necessary pro- 
position : against a truth in mathematics, as against a truth 
in Scripture ; and in the proper natural reason of things 
there can be no difference in degrees, for a truth increases 
not, neither can it decrease. 


The reason of the second is, because that a reason is 
prime or secondary, is accidental to the case of conscience, 
or to the efficacy of its persuasion. For before contracts 
were made or dominions distinguished, it was a prime truth, 
that such things as every one seized on were his own by 
the priority of title. It was a secondary truth, that every 
one was to be permitted to his right for which he hath 
contracted, and which is in his possession. Now these 
reasons are prime or consequent according to the state of 
things to which they are fitted, but the reason from thence 
receives no increment, nor the fact any alteration. 

And this is also true, whether the reason be known to 
us with or without a teacher. For the highest truths of 
God are such as are communicated by revelation ; and it 
is all one, whether God teaches us by nature or by grace, 
by discourse or by experience. There is this only difference, 
that in such truths which are taught, some men can have an 
excuse, because all are not alike instructed in them ; but in 
those things which are born with us, or are consented to as 

O 7 

soon as spoken, it cannot be supposed but all men (that are 
not fools) know them ; and, therefore, they can have no 
pretence of ignorance in such cases : so that sins against 
prime or secondary truths, against truths original or conse- 
quent, truths born or taught, do not differ in the nature of 
the things, but may cause an accidental difference in the 
person, and may take from him the excuse of ignorance, 
and so make the man more sinful; but not the action in 
itself and in its own nature worse. 


Actions, which are forbidden by the Law of Nature either for 
Defect of Power, or for the Incapacity of the Matter, are 
not only unlawful, but also void. 

THIS is true in contracts, and acts of donation, in vows and 
dedition, and all rely upon the same reason. He that cannot 
give, and he that cannot be given, cannot contract or be 
contracted with. Titius intends to marry Cornelia's servant, 
because he desires to have children, and to live comfortably 


with the wife of his youth. He does so; and in their first 
access he finds her, whom he thought to be a woman, to be 
a eunuch ; and, therefore, not a person capable of making 
such a contract: she did ill in contracting, but she hath done 
nothing at all besides that ill, for the contract is void by the 
incapacity of the person. 

Upon this account, the lawyers amongst the causes of the 
nullities of marriage, reckon ' error personae, the mistake 
of the person ;' though certainly this is not to be extended 
beyond the mere incapacities of nature, if we speak of 
natural nullities. Thus if I contract with Millenia, whom I 
suppose to be a lady, and she proves to be a servant, or 
of mean extraction, though if she did deceive me, she did 
ill in it ; yet if she could naturally verify that contract, 
that is, do all the offices of a wife, the contract is not 
naturally void ; whether it be void upon a civil account is 
not here to be inquired : but by the law of nature it is 
void only if by nature it cannot be consummate. For by 
a civil inconvenience or mistake the contracts of nature 
cannot be naturally invalid ; because that is after nature 
and of another consideration, and of a different matter. 
For that a man's wife should be rich, or free, is no more 
of the necessity of the contract of marriage, than it is that 
she should be good-natured or healthful : with this only 
difference, that if a man contracts upon certain conditions, 
the contract is void if the conditions be not verified ; and 
for those things which are present and actual, he can con- 
tract, but not for what is future, contingent, and potential. 
A man may contract with a maiden to take her for his 
wife, if she be free, or if she have such a portion ; but 
not upon condition that she shall be healthful for seven 
years. Because, whatever condition can be stipulated for, 
must be actual before consummation of the marriage : after- 
wards it is for better or worse : the want of any such con- 
dition is not so great an evil to the man, as it is to the 
woman to be left after she is dishonoured. So that if it 
be a thing which can be contracted for, and be actually 
contracted for, in the destitution of the condition the con- 
tract is void. But if there be no such express stipulation 
made, there is nothing can be made a nullity by nature 
but that which is a natural incapacity : and therefore, if 


a gentleman contracts with a slave whom he thinks to be 
a free woman, with a bastard whom he thinks to be legi- 
timate, with a beggar whom he thinks to be a great heiress, 
the contract is naturally valid ; because there is in it all 
the natural capacity ; if she be a woman, if she can be a 
wife, and can be his, there is no more required to a veri- 
fication of the contract in the law of nature. By the way 
I desire it be observed, that to separate or disannul a con- 
tract is not the same thing with declaring it to be null of 
itself or from the beginning. The reason why I insert this 
here, is, lest the explication of the rule seem infirm upon 
the account of other instances : for if a man marries a woman 
whom he took for a maid, and she proves not to be so, 
by the Mosaic law she was to be separated by death or 
divorce : but this is not a nullity : but a divorce may be for 
that cause which was in being before the marriage, as well 
as for the same reason after. 

The other natural cause of invalidity is when the contract 
is made by him who had no power naturally to make it. 
This happens in case of precontracts. Spurius Fescennius 
woos a Greek virgin, and, obtaining her consent, contracts 
himself to her, and promises to marry her within a certain 
limited time. But before the expiration of that time, Publius 
Niger dies, and leaves his widow young and rich and noble ; 
which advantages Fescennius observing, grows in love with 
them, and in a short time quits his pretty Greek, and marries 
the rich Roman lady. But being troubled in conscience 
about the fact, inquires what he hath done, and what he 
ought to do : and he was answered thus, ' If he was married 
to the Greek, he must return to her if she will receive him, 
and quit his new lady ; because he was not a person capable 
to contract with her, being married to another : a dead man 
may as well marry, as that a husband can marry to another, 
and quit that which had possessed all his former power.' 
For in all moral actions, there must be a substantial, potes- 
tative principle, that must have proportioned power to the 
effect ; a thing cannot be done without a cause and principle 
in morality, any more than in nature. If a woman goes 
about to consecrate the holy sacrament, it is yji? cixvgos, it is 
' an ineffective hand/ she sins for attempting it, and cannot 
do it afterwards ; and it were wiser and truer, if men would 

VOL. XII. 8 


think the same thing of their giving baptism, unless they will 
confess that to baptize children is a mere natural and secular 
action, to which natural powers are sufficient ; or that women 
have received spiritual powers to do it ; and that whether a 
priest or a woman does it is no difference, but matter of 
order only. If an effect be spiritual, the agent must be so 
too ; if the effect be gracious arid precarious, so must the 
active cause ; thus it is in contracts and donations, which 
cannot be done without the power of him that does it. But 
he who hath already given away his power, hath none to act 
withal : he cannot do one action twice. 

But this is to be understood only after the actual cession 
of the power and active principle ; not after promises, but 
after possession. Therefore, if Fescennius was only con- 
tracted or promised for the future, though he sinned griev- 
ously in afterwards contracting with the other, yet it is valid. 
For a promise takes not away our dominion in a thing, but 
obliges us to use it in a certain manner. Bartolus appoints 
his cousin Ancharanus, to be his proctor at a synod, and pro- 
mises that he will not revoke the deputation : but afterwards 
does r he is a breaker of promise ; but the revocation is good. 
So it is in testaments, and so in promises. For if, after pro- 
mise, we have no right in the thing which we have promised, 
then we have no power to perform it ; but if we have a right, 
then the after act is valid, because it hath a natural potesta- 
tive cause ; but if the power be past from us, as if Fescennius 
were married to the Greek, he had not himself to give ; for 
as he in the comedy a said of servants, 

Tou fftuftaras ya.g olx, la rat XV/>HIV 
KgartTv a 1a,'ijj.ut, aXXa TV iavnftivai* 

" The man hath not power over his own body, but the 
master hath ;" so hath the wife over the husband, and there- 
fore he hath nothing now to give, and if he does, he does 
nothing ; the man loses his honesty, but the wife does not 
lose her right. But of the instance I am to speak in its own 
place. Here only I am to consider the general rule and its 

Aristoph. Plutus. 6. Brunck. 



When an Act is forbidden by the Law of Nature for the Tur- 
pitude and Undecency that it hath in the Matter of the 
Action, the Act is aho void, when the Turpitude remains or 
hath a perpetual Cause. 

HE that contracts a marriage with his father's wife, or any 
marriage in which every illicit act is a new sin, hath not only 
sinned in making the contract, but the marriage is void by the 
law of nature; and the reason is, because no man can bind 
himself to sin ; so that here also there is a defect of power : no 
man can bind himself against God ; and the law of nature, 
whose prime rule is to do good and to eschew evil, cannot 
verify an act which prevaricates her greatest principle. 
Nature cannot give leave to sin against nature ; it were a 
contradiction : for then the same thing should be according 
to nature, and not according ; and this is expressly affirmed 
in the law ; a " Quod leges prohibent, si perpetuam causam 
servaturum est, cessat obligatio : ut si sororem sibi nupturam 
aliquis stipuletur." He that promises to marry his sister is 
not bound to verify it ; and if he have done it, he is bound to 
quither, because every act of conjunction with her is incest- 
uous, and a state of sin cannot be consented to, nor verified 
by nature, who is an essential enemy to it. 

This is to be understood only in things forbidden by 
the law of nature, the eternal law of God, or his positive 
temporary law ; but is not true in things forbidden only 
by men : the reason of them both is, because no man hath 
power to contract against a Divine law : but if he have 
contracted against a human law, his contract is established 
by a Divine law, and is greater than the human, where the 
Divine does not intervene by some collateral interest. The 
law of the Church of Rome forbids some persons to contract 
marriage ; and yet if they do, the contract is valid ; because 
the persons being naturally, or by Divine law, capable of con- 
tracting, they only sinned who entered against law or leave, 
but they sinned then only ; for the after-actions, being no 
sins, cannot be invalidated. 

L. si stipuletur. de verb, oblig. 


And yet, if the contract be made against a Divine law, it is 
not invalid, unless the Divine law have a perpetual influence 
upon the state, or renewed actions. If a Jew did buy and 
sell upon the Sabbath, he sinned against a Divine law ; but 
his contract is valid. He that contracts with a woman of 
fornications, and lies with her for a price, hath sinned in so 
doing, but is bound to pay her the price of her lust : because 
nothing here is against the Divine law but the fornication ; 
but the contract being extrinsical to the nature of the sin, is 
not made null by that sin : but that which is intrinsically 
evil is for ever so, and therefore must be broken in pieces. 

In all other cases, whatsoever is forbidden by the law of 
nature, is a sin, if it be done, but it is valid and effective to 
all purposes of that law. It is against the law of nature to 
take a great price for a trifle, but if it be contracted for, it 
must be paid. If a thief makes me promise to pay him 
twenty pounds the next day, though he sinned against a 
natural law in doing me that violence, and exacting of me 
that promise, yet the stipulation must stand. 

The sum is this ; wherever there is power, and will, and, in 
the permanent effect, consonancy to the prime measures of 
nature, there the actions are valid, though they entered at 
the wrong door. 

But he that wants power, let his will be ever so strong, 
it effects nothing without : it is just like the king that com- 
manded the waves of the sea not to come to the foot of his 
chair ; they came for all his will to the contrary. 

He that wants will, wants also an integral part of the 
constitution of the act, and does nothing. 

But when he hath a natural and legal power, and an 
effective will, yet if the whole state or the after-actions dwell 
in sin, it cannot be permitted by nature, but must be turned 
out of doors. 


The Law of Nature can be dispensed with, by the Divine 

Power. a 

I AM willing publicly to acknowledge that I was always, 
since I understood it, a very great enemy to all those questions 

Vide reg. 1. n. 45, 44, &c. 


of the school, which inquire into the power of God : as 
* whether, by God's absolute power, a body can be in two 
places?' ' whether God can give leave to a man to sin ?' 
and very many there are of them to as little purpose. But 
yet here I am willing to speak in the like manner of expres- 
sion, because the consequent and effect of it goes not to a 
direct inquiry concerning the Divine power, for it intends 
to remonstrate, that hecause God does actually dispense in 
his own law, this prime law of God, or the law of nature, is 
nothing else but the express and declared will of God in 
matters proportionable to right reason and the nature of 

2. But in order to the present inquiry, it is to be observed 
that God's dispensation is otherwise than man's dispen- 
sation; 1. God is the supreme Lawgiver, and hath immediate 
power and influence over laws, and can cancel these, and 
impose those, new or old, as he please. By this power it is, 
that he can relax to particular persons their personal obliga- 
tion * quod hie et nunc et sic ;' and if he does, the law still 
remaining in its force and power to other persons and in 
other cases, this is properly dispensation. 2. God is the 
supreme Lord, and can transfer dominions and take away 
kingdoms, and give them to whom he please ; and when he 
makes such changes, if he commands any one to be his 
minister in such translations, he does legitimate all those 
violences, by which those changes are to be effected : and 
this also is a dispensation ; but improperly. 3. God is also 
the supreme judge, and can punish and exauctorate whom 
he please, and substitute others in their room ; and when he 
does so by command and express declaration of his will, 
then also he dispenses in those obligations of justice, or 
obedience, or duty respectively, by which the successor or 
substitute, or minister, was hindered from doing that which, 
before the command, was a sin, but now is none : and this 
also is another manner of dispensation. Some doctors of 
the law are resolved to call nothing dispensation but the 
first of these : and the other under another name shall sig- 
nify the same thing ; but, say they, lie only dispenses who 
takes off the obligation directly, by his legislative power, 
without using his judicative and potestative, he who does it 
as an act of direct jurisdiction, not as a lord, or a judge, but 


as a lawgiver : now say they, ' God does never, as a lawgiver, 
cancel or abrogate any law of nature : but, as a lord, he 
transfers rights, and, as a judge, he may use what instru- 
ments he please in executing his sentence, and so by sub- 
tracting or changing the matter of the laws of nature, he 
changes the whole action.' To these things I make this 
reply : 

1. That this is doing the same thing under another 
manner of speaking. For when it is inquired, whether the 
law of nature is dispensable, the meaning is, whether or no 
that which is forbidden by the law of nature, may, in certain 
cases, be done without sin : but we mean not to inquire 
whether or no this change of actions from unlawful to lawful 
be that which the lawyers, in their words of art, and as they 
define it, call ' dispensation :' for in matters of conscience, it 
is pedantry to dispute concerning the forms and terms of art, 
which men, to make their nothings seem learning, dress 
up into order and methods, like the dressings and paintings 
of people that have no beauty of their own : but here the 
inquiry is, and ought to be, more material, in order to practice 
and cases of conscience. For if I may by God be permitted 
to do that which by the law of nature I am not permitted, 
then I am dispensed with in the law of nature ; that is, a leave 
is given to me to do what otherwise I might not. 

2. That the doing of this by any of the forenamed instru- 
ments or ways is a dispensation, and so really to be called, 
appears in the instances of all laws. For if it be pretended 
that the pope can dispense in the matter of vows, or a 
prince in the matter of marriages ; which are rate and firm 
by the law of nature; he cannot do it by direct jurisdiction 
or by annulling the law, which is greater than either king 
or bishop : for when a dispensation is given in these instances, 
it is not given but when there is cause : and when there is 
cause, the matter is changed ; and though the law remains, 
yet in a changed matter the obligation is taken off; and this 
is that which all the world calls dispensation, and so it is in 
the present question ; when God changes the matter, or the 
case is pitiable, or some greater end of God is to be served, 
that is, when there is cause, God dispenses, that is, takes off 
the obligation. Here only is the difference. 

3. In Divine dispensations, God makes the cause ; for his 


laws are so wise, so prudent, so fitted for all needs and 
persons and all cases, that there is no defailance or new 
arising case which God did not foresee : but because he hath 
ends of providence, of justice, of goodness, or power to 
serve, he often introduces new causes of things, and then he 
gives leave to men to finish his designs by instruments which, 
without such leave, would be unlawful. But, in human dis- 
pensations, the cause is prepared beforehand, not by the 
lawgiver, but by accident and unavoidable defect : for, with- 
out cause, dispensations are not to be granted ; but in both, 
the dispensation is not without the changing of the matter, 
that is, without altering the case. God does not give leave 
to any man to break a natural law, as long as he keeps that 
natural law in its own force and reason ; and neither does a 
prince or bishop give leave to any subject to break any of 
his laws when there is no need ; for the first would be a 
contradiction, and the second a plain ruin of his power, and 
a contempt to his laws : therefore, in the sum of affairs, it 
is all one ; and because actions, generally forbidden by the 
law of nature, may by God be commanded to be done, and 
then are made lawful by a temporal command, which he made 
unlawful by nature or first sanction ; this is a direct dis- 
pensing with single persons in the law of nature. And to 
say it is not a dispensation, because God does not do it by 
an act of simple jurisdiction, but by the intertexture of his 
dominative and judicial power, is nothing but to say that 
God, having made a law agreeable to reason, will not do 
against that reason which himself made, till he introduces 
a higher, or another. For while all things remain as was 
foreseen or intended in the law, both Divine and human laws 
are indispensable ; that is, neither God in his providence, nor 
men in the administration of justice and government, do at 
all relax their law. If it be said, a king can do it by his 
absolute power, though it be unjust ; I confess this God 
cannot do, because he can do no wrong : but if God does it, 
his very doing it makes it just: and this a king cannot do. 
But if the question be of matter of power, abstracting from 
considerations of just or unjust, there is no peradventure 
but God can do in his own law, as much as any prince can 
in his. When the matter is changed, the Divine law is as 
changeable as the human, with this only difference, that to 


change the matter of a Divine natural law, is like the 
changing of the order of nature ; sometimes it is done by 
miracle ; and so is the law also changed, by extraordinary dis- 
pensation ; but this, although it can happen as often as God 
please, yet it does happen but seldom as a miracle ; but, in 
human laws, it can and does often happen, and therefore 
they are to be dispensed with frequently : and sometimes 
the case can so wholly alter, and the face of things be so 
entirely new, and the inconvenience so intolerable, that the 
whole law must pass away into desuetude and nullity ; which 
can never happen in the Divine natural law ; because the 
reason of it is as eternal as nature herself; and can only be 
interrupted by rare contingencies of God's procuring, as the 
order of nature is by miracle ; but will revert, because nature 
will return into her channel, and her laws into their proper 

4. But now to the matter of fact that God hath dispensed 
not only by subtraction or alteration of the matter, but by 
direct jurisdiction, that is, as he is a judge, and a lord, 
and a lawgiver, even in all the ways, in which dispensations 
can be made, appears in several instances. 

1 . That the marriage of one man and one woman is by 
the law of nature, appears by the institution of marriage, and 
by Christ's revocation of it to the first sanction. It was so 
from the beginning : and if any thing be a law of nature, 
that is one by the consent of all men : and yet Moses per- 
mitted divorces ; and God, and Moses his servant, permitted 
polygamy, when there was no necessity, no change of the 
matter or of case, but only that men had a mind to it. For 
if the conjunction of male and female was established * in 
singular! conjugio' at the first, when there might be a greater 
necessity of multiplying wives for the peopling of the world, 
then as the world grew more populous, the necessity could 
less be pretended ; therefore, this must be an act of pure 
jurisdiction : the causes of exception or dispensation grew 
less, when the dispensation was more frequent, and, there- 
fore, it was only a direct act of jurisdiction. Though I 
confess that to distinguish dominion from jurisdiction, and 
the power of a judge from that of a lawgiver, I mean when 
both are supreme, and the power of a lord from them both, 
is a distinction without real difference ; for as he is our Lord, 


he gives us laws, and judges us by those laws: and, there- 
fore, nothing is material in this inquiry, but whether the 
action can pass from unlawful to lawful ; though because 
lawyers and other schools of learning use to speak their 
shibboleth, I thought it not amiss to endeavour to be under- 
stood by them in their own way. So again, that brother and 
sister should not marry, is supposed to be a law of nature; 
but yet God dispensed with it in the case of Cain and his 
sister : and this he did as a lord or as a lawgiver ; he made 
it necessary to be so, and yet it was not necessary he should 
make it so ; for he could have created twenty men and 
twenty women as well as one : but that which is incest in 
others, was not so in him ; but there was no signal act of 
dominion or of judicature in this, but it was the act of a free 
agent ; and done because God would do so ; whether this be 
jurisdiction or dominion, let who can determine. 

2. But in some things God did dispense by changing the 
matter, using that which men are pleased to call the right of 
dominion. Thus God did dispense with Abraham in the 
matter of the sixth commandment; God commanded him to 
kill his son, and he obeyed, that is, resolved to do it, and 
willed that which in others would be wilful murder. Now 
God was Lord of Isaac's life, and might take it away him- 
self, and therefore it was just : but when he gave Abraham 
command to do it, he did not do it but by dispensing with 
him, in that commandment. It is true that God, by his 
dominion, made the cause for the dispensation ; but yet it 
was a direct dispensation ; and it is just as if God should, by 
his dominion, resolve to take away the lives of the men in a 
whole nation, and should give leave to all mankind to kill all 
that people as fast as they could meet them, or when they 
had a mind to it : and this was. the case of the sons of 
Israel, who had leave to kill the Canaanites and their neigh- 
bours. God dispensed with them in the matter of the sixth 
and eighth commandments : for it is not enough to say, that 
God, as Lord of lives and fortunes, had divested them of 
their rights, and permitted them to others : for that is not 
enough, that God, as Lord, hath taken away the lives, and 
liberties, and possessions of any man, or community of men : 
for that act of dominion is not enough to warrant any man to 
execute the Divine decree ; nay, though God hath decreed 


and declared it concerning a crime that it shall be capital, 
yet a man must have more than this to make it lawful to put 
that man to death. He must be a minister of the Divine 
jurisdiction ; he must have a power intrusted to him from 
God, and a commission to execute the Divine sentence; and 
from hence it follows undeniably, that since the delegate 
power is a delegate jurisdiction, and without this a man may 
not put a capital offender to death ; that, therefore, the 
Supreme Power from whence the delegation is commission- 
ated, is also a power of jurisdiction ; and, therefore, if the 
words of their own art are true, this leave given to do that 
which, without that leave, were a sin against the law of 
nature, is properly and truly a dispensation. 

3. The third way of dispensing is by applying the power 
of a judge to a certain person or community, and, by way of 
punishment, to take from him what cannot be taken from 
him but by superior power, or by the Supreme ; thus we are 
commanded, by the law of nature, to give nourishment, and 
to make provisions for our children ; but if our children 
prove rebellious and unnatural, God can command us to 
neglect that duty, and to expose them to the contingencies 
of fortune. It is, by the law of nature, commanded to us to 
love and honour our parents, to be loving and kind to our 
children ; but if parents enticed their children to idolatry, 
their children might lay their hands upon them, and stone 
them to death. It is a command and a prime rule of the law 
of nature, that we should do as we would be done to : but 
even in this original rule and great sanction, God did dispense 
with the Israelites, for they might not exact upon one 
another by usury; but to strangers they might : what they 
hated to have done to themselves, they were willing and 
expressly permitted to do to others. In these and the like 
cases, although an act of dominion or judgment might inter- 
vene, yet that is not enough to warrant the irregular action ; 
there must be an act of jurisdiction besides ; that is, if God 
commands it, or, by express declaration, warrants it, then it 
may be done. Thus God, as a judge, and being angry with 
David, intended to punish him, by suffering his concubines 
to be humbled by his son in the face of all Israel ; but 
though he did it justly, yet because Absalom had no command 
or warrant to do what God threatened, he was criminal. 


But Jeroboam and Jehu had commissions for what they 
did, though of itself it was otherwise violent, unjust, rebel- 
lious, and unnatural ; arid, therefore, did need the same 
authority to legitimate it, by which it became unlawful. God 
often punishes a prince by the rebellion of his subjects ; God 
is just in doing it : but he hates the instruments, and will 
punish them with a fearful destruction, unless they do repent ; 
in this case, nothing can warrant the subjects to strike, but 
an express command of God. 

Thus, 1 conceive, the thing itself is clear and certain ; 
but for the extension of this, the case is yet in question, and 
it is much disputed amongst them that admit this rule in any 
sense, how many laws of nature can be dispensed with : for 
if all, then the consequents will be intolerable; if not all, by 
what are they separated, since they all seem to be established 
by the bands of eternal reason ? Some say that the precepts 
of the second table are dispensable, but not the first ; but 
that is uncertain, or rather certainly false ; for if God did 
please, he might be worshipped by the interposition of an 
image ; or if he essentially should hate that, as indeed in 
very many periods of the world he hath severely forbidden 
it ; yet the second commandment and the fourth have suf- 
fered alteration, and in some parts of them are extinguished. 
Others say that the negative precepts are indispensable ; but 
not the affirmative. But this is not true ; not only because 
every negative is complicated with an affirmative, and every 
affirmative hath a negative in the arms of it, but because all 
the precepts of the second table, the first only excepted, are 
negative ; and yet God can dispense with all of them, as I 
have already proved. 

But though it be hard to tell how far this dispensation 
and economy can reach, and to what particulars it can ex- 
tend, because God's ways are unsearchable, and his power 
not to be understood by us ; yet since our blessed Saviour 
hath made up a perfect system of the natural law, and hath 
obtained to himself an everlasting kingdom, so that his law 
must last as long as the world lasts, and by it God will 
govern mankind for ever ; by the eternal reasonableness and 
proportions of this law, we can tell what is indispensable and 
what not : and the measure by which alone we can guess at 
it is this, Every matter from whence the ' ratio debiti,' or 


' cause of the obligation,' can be taken, is dispensable. Now 
because God is supreme over all his creatures, and can 
change all their affairs, and can also choose the manner of 
his own worship, therefore in these things he can dispense. 

But in that essential duty, which his creatures owe to 
him, the case is different ; for though God can exact more 
or fewer instances of affirmative duty, these or others, yet 
there cannot be an alteration of the main relation ; and of the 
intrinsic duty, and the intercourse of the soul with God in 
the matter of the principal affections, there can be no dis- 
pensation. It is eternally and indispensably necessary that 
we love God ; and it were a contradiction that either God 
should command us to hate him, or that we could obey him 
if he did. For obedience is love; arid, therefore, if we 
obeyed God commanding us to hate him, we should love him 
in hating him, and obey him by our disobedience. 

Now if it be inquired, To what purposes of conscience all 
this inquiry can minister ? the answer to the inquiry wilt 
reduce it to practice ; for the proper corollaries of this 
determination of the question are these : 

1. That our duty to God is supreme; it is only due to 
him ; it cannot be lessened, and ought not, upon any pre- 
tence, to be extinguished ; because his will is the only 
measure of our obedience ; and whatsoever is in nature, is 
so wholly for God and for God's service, that it ought to 
bend and decline from its own inclination to all the com- 
pliances in the world which can please God. Our reason, 
our nature, our affections, our interest, our piety, our 
religion, are, and ought to be, God's subjects perfectly ; and 
that which they desire, and that which we do, hath in it no 
good, no worthiness, but what it derives from the Divine law 
and will. 

2. That, in the sanction of the Divine laws, the reason 
obliges more than the letter ; for since the change of the 
reason is the ground of all mutation and dispensation in 
laws, it is certain that the reason and the authority, that in 
the thing, this in God, are the soul and the spirit of the law : 
and though this must not be used so as to neglect the law 
when we fancy a reason, yet when the letter and the reason 
are in opposition, this is to be preferred before that. If the 
reason ceases, it is not enough of warrant to neglect the law ; 


unless a contrary reason arises, and that God cannot be 
served by obedience in that instance : but when the case is 
not only otherwise, but contrary to what it was before, let 
the design of God be so observed, as that the letter be 
obeyed in that analogy and proportion. It is a natural law, 
that we should not deceive our neighbour ; because his 

O ' 

interest and right is equal to any man's else : but if God hath 
commanded me to kill him, and I cannot, by force, get him 
into my hand, I may deceive him whom God hath com- 
manded me to kill ; if, without such a snare, I cannot obey 
the command of God. But this is but seldom practicable, 
because the reasons, in all natural laws, are so fixed and 
twisted with the accidents of every man's life, that they 
cannot alter but by miracle, or by an express command of 
God ; and therefore we must, in the use of this rule, wholly 
attend upon the express voice of God. 

3. It hence also will follow, that, if an angel from heaven, 
or any prophet, or dreamer of dreams, any teacher and 
pretendedly illuminate person, shall teach or persuade to any 
act against any natural law, that is, against any thing which 
is so reasonable and necessary that it is bound upon our 
natures by the Spirit of God and the light of our reason, he 
is not to be heard ; for until God changes his own establish- 
ments, and turns the order of things into new methods 
and dispositions, the natural obligations are sacred and 

4. From the former discourses it will follow, that the 
Holy Scriptures of the New Testament are the light of our 
eyes, and the entire guide of our conscience, in all our great 
lines of duty ; because there our blessed Lord hath perfectly 
registered all the natural and essential obligations of men to 
God, and to one another; and that in these things no man 
can or ought to be prejudiced ; in these things no man is to 
have a fear, but to act with confidence and diligence, and 
that concerning the event of these things no man is to have 
any jealousies ; because since all the precepts of Christ are 
perfective of our nature, they are instruments of all that 
felicity of which we can be capable, and by these we shall 
receive all the good we can hope for : and that, since God 
hath, by his holy Son, declared this will of his to be lasting, 
and never more to be changed by any succeeding lawgiver, 


we must rest here, and know that no power less than God 
can change any thing of this, and that, by this law, we shall 
stand or fall in the eternal scrutiny. 


The Law of Nature cannot be dispensed with by any 
human Power. 

THE reason is, 1. Because nature and her laws have both the 
same author, and are relative to each other, and these as 
necessary to the support and improvement of human nature, 
as nourishment to the support of human bodies : and as no 
man can create new appetites, or make hay or stones to be 
our nourishment : so neither can he make, that our nature 
should be maintained in its well-being without these laws. 
2. The laws of nature, being bound upon us by the law of 
God, cannot be dispensed withal, unless by a power equal or 
the same, or superior to that which made the sanction : but 
that cannot be at all ; therefore neither can they be dispensed 
with at all, unless it be by God himself. 3. Natural laws 
are all the dictates of natural reason ; and he that dispenses 
with the law must have power to alter the reason, which 
because it can never be done but by superinducing some- 
thing upon nature greater than her own natural need, and 
none can do this but God, therefore none but he can 

But because wise men 8 have publicly said it, " Per jus 
gentium et civile aliquid detrahitur de jure natural! ; By 
the law of nations and the civil laws, something may be 
diminished from the law of nature," it is to be considered 
what truth they could signify by those words : for unless by 
some instances of case they had seen it lawful, it is not to be 
supposed it could have been, by so wise persons, made 
sacred. But the following measures are its limit. 

1. Whatsoever is forbidden by the natural law, cannot be 

* L. Manumissiones, et L. Jur. civile, ff. de justitia et jure et in sect, jus 
autem. Instit. de Jure Natur. Gentium et Civili. 


permitted by the civil ; because where the highest power 
hath interposed, there the inferior and subordinate hath no 
authority ; for all it hath being from the superior, it cannot 
be supposed it can prejudice that from whence it hath all 
its being ; for if it could be otherwise, then either the inferior 
must be above the supreme, or the supreme must submit 
itself to what is under it. 

2. Whatsoever is commanded by the law of nature, can- 
not be forbidden by the civil law : for God, who is here the 
lawgiver, is to be heard ; and he sets up no authority against 
himself, nor gives any man leave to disobey him. These 
rely upon the same reasons, and are described above. 

3. That which the law of nature hath permitted, and no 
more, may be made up into a civil law, or it may be for- 
bidden, according to that rule in the law, " Quod licitum est 
ex superveniente causa, mutatur ; That which is only 
lawful by a supervening cause, may be changed." For rights 
are before laws in time and nature, and are only such 
licenses as are left when there are no laws. Commands and 
prohibitions of nature not being the matter of civil laws, 
unless it be by way of corroboration, there can no laws be 
made in a natural matter, unless there be restraints or con- 
tinued permissions of their first rights. For that which, in 
morality, we call " indifferent," in nature we call " a right ;" 
that is, something that is permitted me to do or to use as I 
see cause for, is a thing upon which no restraint is made ; 
that is, there is no law concerning it : but, therefore, the 
civil law may restrain it, because the liberty and its use may 
do mischief, and there is no law hinders it to be disposed by 
men. For if I may, by my private power or interest, use 
any of it, or deny myself the use of it, much more may the 
civil power do it. I might not do it myself, if any law of 
God had forbidden me ; but if no law of God hath forbidden, 
what can hinder but that the civil power may order it ? such 
are natural liberty, community, powers of revenge, of taking 
any thing, of killing any man that injures me. 

4. That which is confirmed by the law of nature, may, by 
the civil power, be altered and dispensed with : which hap- 
pens in two cases. 

1. When the obligation supposes a foregoing act of the 
will, and is arbitrary in one of the terms of relation. Titius 


owes a thousand pounds to Caius, and by the essential or 
natural laws of justice is bound to pay him ; but because 
this supposes a private right in Caius, upon whom there is 
no restraint but he may use it, or let it alone ; therefore 
Caius, being at his liberty, may refuse to use his power 
of demanding the money of Titius, and forgive it him; and 
if he do, Titius, although bound by the natural law to pay 
him, is, by the private power of Caius, dispensed with. 
Because in obligations, as in arguments, if there be one leg 
that can fail, the conclusion is infirm. If one part can be 
loosed, the continuity of the whole is dissolved. 

2. The other case is like this, when the obligation is 
upon a condition, if the condition of itself fails or be annulled 
by any just power or interest, the obligation which was 
introduced by the law of nature, can be rescinded or dis- 
pensed with ; for nature binds and looses according to the 
capacity of the things. It passes a temporal band upon 
temporal reasons and necessities, and an eternal band upon 
that whose reason can never fail, and where the necessity is 
indeterminable. And if a natural law could bind longer than 
that reason lasts for which it did bind, then a natural law 
could be unreasonable, which is a contradiction. But then 
if the law does not bind in this case, beyond the condition, 
then it is but improperly to be called a dispensation, when it 
is relaxed ; but it is usual to call it so, and it is well enough ; 
for it means this great direction to conscience, that though 
the law of God be eternal, yet its obligation may cease in the 
foregoing cases : for even judges are said to dispense by 
interpreting the law, and applying that interpretation to par- 

5. The civil law can extrinsically change the natural law. 
For things may be altered or cease by an intrinsic or by an 
extrinsic cause. A father ceases to be a father when he dies, 
and he ceases to be a father if all his children die ; this 
alteration is by an extrinsical cause ; but to all effects and 
purposes it is the same as to the present case. Now, though 
nature cannot die, as species do not perish, yet nature may 
change as individuals may die ; that is, if the matter of the 
law be subtracted, or so changed that it is to be governed 
with another portion of reason, that the law also must cease 
as to that particular. For as in the body of man there is 


great variety of accidents and mutability of matter, but all 
that variety is governed by the various flexures of the same 
reason, which remains unchanged in all the complications 
and twistings about the accidents, and is the same though 
working otherwise ; so it is in the laws of nature ; whose 
reason and obligation remain unchanged, even when it is 
made to comply with changing instances ; but then it cannot 
but be said to change, even as eternity itself hath successive 
parts by its co-existence with variety of times. Tribonianus 
swears fealty to Tarquinius Priscus, king of the Romans, 
and to his heirs for ever ; by the laws of nature he is now 
obliged, but if he and his son Sextus be deposed and mur- 
dered, and a new government established in another form or 
in another time, the law of nature cannot bind him to that 
which is not, and therefore he is disobliged. 

The sum is this ; when natural and prime laws are in 
prime and natural instances whose matter is unchangeable, 
there the law of nature cannot be prejudiced by any but 
by the Lord of nature : and the reason of this is no other 
but the necessity and constitution of nature : God hath 
made it so, and it is so to be served, so to be provided for, 
and the law is a portion of the eternal law, an image of the 
Divine wisdom, as the soul is the image of the Divine nature. 
But when the natural laws are in a matter that can be preju- 
diced, and do presuppose contract, cession, condition, parti- 
cular states, or any act of will, whose cause is not perpetual, 
the law binds by the condition of the matter; and the eternal 
law goes from its own matter as the immortal soul does from 
the body. Thus we say, that God's gifts are without repent- 
ance, and his love never fails, and his promises are for ever, 
and yet God takes away his gifts, and does repent of his 
loving-kindnesses, and takes away his love, and will not give 
what he had promised ; but it is not because he changes in 
himself, but the correlative of his actions and promises are 

So that now, upon this account, the whole question and 
practice about the pope's power in dispensing in the natural 
law, will appear to be a horrible folly, without any pretence 
of reason ; and the thing, by its chiefest patrons, seems not 
at all to be understood. For since the rules of nature are 



unalterable and eternal, the law being framed upon those 
rules complicated with matter, and persons, and events, is 
also eternal, excepting only where the matter is or can be 
changed. Now if the matter be in prime instances, as the 
conjunction of sexes, relation of parents and children, &c., 
the law is the same for ever ; only this, if the matter, by a 
miracle or extraordinary act of God, be changed, by the 
same power the law is to be changed : but as we say rivers 
and seas run for ever, and yet Jordan was opened and so was 
the Red Sea, and the perpetual course of the sun and moon 
was once stopped, but it reverted when the extraordinary 
case was past ; so it is in the law of nature, which, in the 
prime instances and natural matter, is as unalterable as the 
course of the sun and seas. 

But, 2. Sometimes the matter, changes alone, or is changed 
to our hand, as in conditional contracts, and in this case the 
law ceases, and the obligation goes off as to that particular. 

But, 3. Sometimes the matter is changeable by the will 
of the interested persons, and by none else but themselves, 
and them who have over them the power which themselves 
have : such as God, and under him, the supreme human 
power, their own princes. Now to apply this to the question 
of the pope's power in giving dispensations : I consider that, 
1 . To establish his power upon any words of Scripture, is 
to pretend that his power of dispensing is an act of jurisdic- 
tion and direct authority, that is, that he hath commission to 
do it with or without reason or cause founded in the thing 
itself, but only because he will ; and he that does so, says 
he can do more than (as many of the most learned Roman 
doctors say) God can do ; for he dispenses in the law of 
nature in no case, but when he changes the matter, in the 
prime or second instances of nature respectively, which when 
the pope can do, he also may pretend to a commission of 
being lord of nature : but it is certain, that for this there are 
no words of Scripture. But, 2. If this power of dispensing 
be such as supposes the matter already changed, that is, that 
there is a just cause, which is, of itself, sufficient, but is not 
so to him who is concerned, till it be completely declared, 
then all the dispute will be reduced to this, whether he be 
the most probable doctor ? for to expound when a natural 


obligation ceases, is not an act of power, but of wisdom ; 
and that the pope is the wisest man, or the only wise man, 
it is also certain that there are no words of Scripture to 
affirm it. But besides this, in cases of this nature, there 
needs no dispensation ; for the law ceases of itself; as in 
contracts made upon condition, when the condition is not 
performed. In human laws, where the subject is bound 
more by the authority than the matter of laws, the law may 
still be obligatory after the ceasing of the reason or matter 
of the law : and so there may be need of dispensation : but 
we speak here of laws bound on us by God and nature, in 
which the very ceasing of the matter, of itself, dispenses 
with the law. But, 3. If it be yet more than this, and that 
in a changeable matter, I mean, in things that are not prime 
instances of nature, and of lasting necessity, but in human 
contracts, promises, laws, and vows, which depend upon the 
pleasure and choice of men, but yet are corroborated by the 
law of nature, he pretends to a power of altering the case so 
as to make way for dispensation ; then the pretence reaches to 
this, that the pope must be lord of actions and fortunes, and 
the wills of others, and the contracts of men : that is, in 
effect, that no contract shall be valid, unless he please ; and 
no man shall choose for himself; or if he does, he needs not 
stand to it ; and no man can have a right transferred to him 
by a contract, but it can be rescinded against the will of the 
interested person ; and if he can have any such power to do 
thus much mischief, then justice will be the most contingent 
thing in the world : and the question will not be a question 
of theology, but of empire, and temporal regard, and there- 
fore for this no words of Scripture can be pretended, because 
no words of Scripture of the New Testament ever did transfer 
an empire, or temporal power, to a spiritual person for a 
spiritual reason ; so that this will be a question of war, not 
of peace and religion. To which I add this, by way of 
provision ; that although supreme princes have, in some 
cases, power to rescind contracts of their subjects, and 
parents, of their children ; yet this is only, in their own 
circuits, done by mutual consent, in case of public necessity 
or utility, of which, by reason and the laws, they are made 
competent judges : which the pope also may have in his 


temporal dominions as well as any other prince : but this 
is not dispensation, but the annulling of contracts or pro- 
mises ; it makes them not to be at all, not to cease after 
they have a being, which is the nature of dispensation, of 
which we now inquire. But the matter of this question, and 
the particular instance, as it relates to the bishop of Rome, 
is of another consideration. 

6. The civil law can add to the law of nature : not 
only new obligations by affixing temporal penalties ; but by 
requiring new circumstances to corroborate and consummate 
an action : not that the civil law of a prince or republic can 
annul any thing which nature hath confirmed, but it can 
hinder it from passing into a civil and public warranty. 
Thus a clandestine contract is valid by the law of nature ; 
and in the court of conscience there are witnesses, and 
judges, and executioners, and laws, and penalties, to exact 
the performance of it : but when the civil or ecclesiastic law 
hath commanded, that, in all contracts of marriage, there 
should be witnesses, it must mean, that the contract shall 
not be acknowledged for legitimate, unless there be ; and, 
therefore, that the contract must be solemnly published 
before it be civilly firm. No civil power can so enjoin 
witnesses, as that, if the contract be made without witnesses, 
it shall not be obligatory in conscience. For this obligation 
is before the civil law, and is bound by that power, by which 
the civil power hath a being. But the civil power, which 
cannot annul the act of nature and conscience, can super- 
induce something upon it. It cannot make the contractors 
to go back from what they have done, but to proceed to 
something more, that what was firm in the inward may be 
confirmed in the outward court. By our laws, the clan- 
destine contract is civilly null before publication ; but in our 
religion, we believe it obligatory in conscience, and that it 
must come into publication. But, by the laws of Rome, the 
whole contract is nullified, and the persons disobliged, and 
the marriage after consummation is dissolved. This is against 
the law of nature, but the other is a provision for it by addi- 
tional security, that is, a taking care that the contracts of 
nature may not be denied. For the confirmation of a natural 
contract nothing is necessary but a natural capacity not 


hindered by the Lord of nature. Whatsoever, therefore, is 
superinduced upon nature, cannot disannul that to which all 
things competently necessary are ingredient ; a condition 
brought in by a less power cannot invalidate that which 
before that condition was valid : but as civil powers derive 
their authority from natural laws and reason, so to these 
they must minister, and they may do it by addition and 
superfetation ; but they may not violate them by irritation. 


That the Obligation to a natural Law does cease in any par- 
ticular, is not to be presumed by every one, but is to be 
declared by the public Voice. 

THIS depends upon the foregoing discourses, and is con- 
sequent to them. For the several dispensations in the law 
of nature being wrought by the change of their subject- 
matter, the rule can never be changed ; because that is 
eternal, and is abstract from matter ; but the law may be 
dispensed with, because that is twisted with matter, which is 
not eternal. But then, because the several matters of law 
can be changed by several powers respectively, that power 
which alters the matter, and consequently dispenses with 
the law, must, by some evidence or other, make the change 
apparent. If God by his power alters the case, and dis- 
penses in the law, he also is to declare it ; because he must 
do more ; for he must give expressly a leave to do propor- 
tionable actions ; he having bound us to the law of nature, 
leaves us so till he tells us otherwise : and the same also is 
the case, if the matter be changed by man : for by the law 
of nature we being bound to obey laws and perform con- 
tracts, must remain so bound, till he that holds the other 
end of the string lets it go, or tells us it is untied : because 
he hath an interest in it, which must not depend upon the 
reason of another, but upon that which is common to both. 
For although we all agree, that every rule of nature is un- 
alterable, and every law is to be observed, yet in every thing 
where a change can be pretended, every man's reason is 


equal ; and therefore is not to be made use of in relation to 
others. For we all agree that theft is evil ; but whether this 
action or this detention be theft, men's reasons oftentimes 
cannot agree : and since every man's reason hath the same 
power and the same privilege, no man's single reason can 
determine, because there is no reason why yours more than 
mine. But therefore it is, that there must be some common 
reason to declare the case, and the man to be at liberty, and 
the law to be loose. 

This hath no other variety in it but this, that although 
the public voice must declare concerning those instances, 
that concern that matter of laws natural which is in her 
keeping, as God is to do in those in which only he hath 
immediate power, yet every private man can declare the 
obligation of a natural law to be loose, when he holds one 
end of the string. If, by a natural law, Caius be tied to do 
me an act of kindness and justice, it is my right ; and as 
long as I will demand it, I hold the band of the natural 
law in my hand ; but if I let it go, and will quit my right, 
the obligation is off, because the matter is subtracted. The 
reason of all is the same. No man is a good judge in his 
own case, where there is the interest of another twisted 
with it ; and it is unequal that my reason should govern 
my neighbour's interest, or that his should govern mine : 
this would be an equal mischief, and therefore something 
indifferent to both must turn the balance, that there may be 
equal justice and equal provision. But if a man will quit 
his right, there is no wrong done. He can sufficiently de- 
clare his own will and the acts of kindness ; and then the 
law that combines with the matter, takes the same lot. 


The Exactness of Natural Laws is capable of Interpretation, 
and may be allayed by Equity, Piety, and Necessity. 

WHATSOEVER can be dispensed withal, is either dispensed 
with by an absolute power of jurisdiction, or for some cause 
in the nature of the thing : and if the laws of nature can 


cease to oblige without reason, but by the will and the com- 
mand of the Supreme, of God himself, much more may the 
same will and power do it, when there is also a reason : and 
if there be a reason to take off the obligation wholly in some 
particulars, then much rather may there be a cause to take 
off some part of the exactness upon a proportionable cause ; 
if it may be dispensed with, it may also be interpreted by 
equity ; for this is less than that in the same kind. Every 
man is bound to restore his neighbour's goods when they 
are demanded ; but if he calls for his sword to kill a man 
withal, there is equity in this case, and I am not guilty of 
the breach of the natural law, if I refuse to deliver him the 
sword when he is so violent and passionate. To pay debts 
is a natural law ; but if a rich man calls for a sum of money 
which is his due, and I by paying him to-day, shall be un- 
done, and he, by staying till next week, shall not be undone, 
I do not break the law of nature, if I detain the money a 
little longer, and offer him satisfaction for the wrong, if he 
have received any. I promised my brother to see him upon 
the ides of March ; in my journey to him I broke my leg : 
now though I, by the natural law, am bound to perform 
promises, and it is possible, that, for all my broken leg, I 
might get to him by the time, yet there is equity in it and 
piety that I forbear to go with so great an inconvenience. 
" Surgam ad sponsalia,quiapromisi,quamvisrion concoxerim: 
sed non, si febricitavero : subest enim tacita exceptio, si 
potero, si debebo :" said Seneca. a There is an equity and a 
reasonableness in all these things. " Effice, ut idem status 
sit, quum exigitur, qui fuit, quum promitterem." If the case 
be, when I am to perform, as it was when I promised, then I 
am bound ' pro rata portione,' that is, 

1. If it become impossible, I am wholly disobliged. 

2. If it become accidentally unlawful, I am dispensed 

3. If it become intolerably inconvenient, I am in equity 
to be relieved. For in these cases it is no breach of promise, 
but I am just if I desire to do it, and in the degree in which 
I am disabled, in the same I am to be pitied. " Destituere 
levitas non erit, si aliquid intervenit novi. Eadem mihi 

De Benef. iv. c. 39. 2, 3. Ruhkopf, vol. iv. p. 197. 


omnia prsesta; et idem sum; It is not levity when I 
am the same ; but my powers and possibilities are changed 
or lessened." 

But this is to be understood and practised with these 
limitations : 

1. Not every change of case can excuse, or lessen, or 
alter the obligation, but such a change as makes the person 
pitiable, or the thing more vexatious to the doer than it 
could be of advantage to the other. 

2. If the cause does not continue, the first equity does 
not disannul the obligation, but defers it only, and it returns 
when the cause ceases. 

3. The obliged person, as he is not wholly disobliged for 
the time, so neither for the thing itself; for if it be matter 
of interest, though without violation of nature's law it may 
be deferred, and does not bind the man to a guilt, yet it 
does to a new duty, the duty of giving satisfaction to him 
who suffered injury: for since, in the law of nature, all 
men's rights are equal, it is unnatural and unjust that to one 
there should be remission and ease, and to the other a 
burden. For no man is to be better by the hurt and injury 
of another. 

4. If the cause be less, or if it be more, it ought not to be 
done, unless an interpretative leave be justly or reasonably 
presumed. In a great matter every man is presumed so 
charitable as to be willing to comply with his brother's need 
or sad accident. But if it be less, then the interpretative 
leave must be presumed upon the stock of friendship or ex- 
perience, or something upon which wise men usually rely. 
Only in this case, the presumption ought to be less confident, 
and more wary. 

This rule is to be understood principally in matters of 
justice, and relative intercourses ; for in matters of religion 
and sobriety the case is different : because, in natural religion 
and natural measures of sobriety, which are founded 'in 
prima natura,' in the very constitution of man's soul and 
body, in the first laws of God, and the original economy of 
the body, the matter is almost as unalterable as the rule. 





When the Law of Jesus Christ was established, the Old 
Testament, or the Law of Moses, did no longer oblige the 

THE doctors* of the Jews say, that, at the command of a 
prophet, that is, of one that works miracles, it is lawful to 
break any commandment, that only excepted which is con- 
cerning the worship of one God. Thus at the command of 
Joshua b the children of Israel brake the precept of the Sab- 
bath at Jericho, and Samuel and Elijah d offered sacrifice 
in places otherwise than the law appointed, and the priests 
in the temple did kill beasts and laboured upon the Sabbath, 
and yet were blameless : and ' circumcisio pellit Sabbatum,' 
was their own proverb ; on the Sabbath they circumcised 
their infants, and the prophet Jeremy was author to the Jews 
' in secunda domo,' that is, after they were taken captive, 
that they should change their computation by months, and 
not begin with Nisan. 

For God, being the supreme Lawgiver, hath power over 
his own laws, as, being a Creator, he hath over his own 
creation ; he that gave being, can take it away : and the 
law may be changed, though God cannot. For God is 
immutable in his attributes, but his works have variety, and 
can change every day ; as light and darkness succeed each 
other, and summer and winter, and health and sickness, and 
life and death, and perfect and imperfect ; and he that 
commanded all men not to kill, might give a commandment 

Talmud, tit. de Synedrio. b Josh. vi. 15. 

c 1 Sam. vii. 10 j xiii. 8. d 1 Kings, xviii. 38. 


to Abraham that he should kill his son ; and when he had 
established the law of Moses, it was in his power, without 
any imputation or shadow of change, to give the world a new 
law, and a better. 

To this purpose our blessed Lord was endued with power 
from on high to give a new law; for he was a great prophet, 
and did many and mighty miracles, and advanced the spi- 
ritual worship of the only true God; aud brought men from 
childish and imperfect usages, to the natural, spiritual, manly, 
and perfective manner of worshipping God ; and therefore it 
was necessary that a change should be made : for in Moses's 
law the rites were troublesome and imperfect, chargeable 
and useless, not able to wash away sins, nor to perfect the 
spirits of the saints ; it exhibited nothing substantial, but by 
shadows pointed at the substance to be revealed afterwards : 
it was fitted to the weakness of imperfect people, and in some 
very great instances was exceeded by the lives and piety of 
some excellent persons, as Moses and David, who by humi- 
lity, meekness, forgiveness, and charity, did acts of piety 
beyond the precepts of the law, and many did not divorce 
their wives, and yet by their law all were permitted to do it: 
for it might be said of Moses as by the lawgiver of whom 
Origen* speaks, who, being asked if he had given to his 
citizens the best laws, answered, "Or/ ou rovs xaSa'-ra^ xaXX/<r- 
rouj, aXX' uv ibvvaro rovg xaXX/cYous 1 " Not absolutely the best, 
but the best he could, considering the incapacity and averse- 
ness of his citizens :" so did Moses ; he gave a better law 
than ever was before, and the best which that people and 
the state of things could then bear: but it was but for a time, 
and the very nature of the law required a better to succeed 
it ; and therefore he that came and gave a better, was not to 
be rejected, because he disannulled the worse : E/ ds o5/ 
crgoj 7ov Kara, <pvffiv fayopsvov jtsaov &iov atpoguvrsg, xai a 
av x,ai o'l croXXo/, dig ra exrog ug ra aya^a r t xaxa, xa/ v TO, rou 
uffavrug 'jTS/X^TTra/, i/o/io^srouovv, r! rig rbv rovrwv fapa<f>spuv 
avargtKti (3iov " If other lawgivers (saith Porphyry) f regard- 
ing that middle kind of life, which is said to be according to 
nature, and to those things of which men are capable, who 
esteem things good or evil by proportions of the body, have 

e Adv. Cels. iii. ' Lib. i. de non Esu Anim. 


given laws symbolical, yet what hurt does he that brings in 

1. For first it is certain, God himself did permit some 
things in Moses's law, which himself had no pleasure in : I 
instance in the matter of divorces, of which God, by the 
prophet, said, " I hate putting away." 

2. The promises of Moses's law, in which the whole 
obedience was established, and for which it was exacted, 
were wholly temporal and related to this life ; and when 
the prophets and holy men of the nation began to speak 
openly of resurrection from the dead, and a life to come, 
it was an open proclamation of the imperfection and change 
of that law by which nothing of that was promised and 
nothing at all spoken of, by which mankind should, by 
obeying God, arrive to that felicity which all wise men did 
suppose God did design to him. 

3. Although good things for this life were promised by 
the law of Moses, yet, toward the end and expiration of it, 
the nation suffered a new dispensation of things ; and the 
godly men were often persecuted, and the whole nation con- 
tinually baffled and subdued by him that would ; by the 
Assyrians and Chaldeans, by the Persians and by Antiochus, 
by the Syrians and the Romans; and therefore it was neces- 
sary they should expect some better covenant, which should 
be verified in the letter, and make recompense for the cala- 
mities which their best men here did suffer. 

4. The laws of Moses were such, which were not of 
things naturally and originally good, but which did relate 
to time, and place, and person ; but it was a law without 
which many ages of the world did live, and after it was 
established, it did only bind that people ; for neither did 
Moses persuade his father-in-law Jethro to receive that law, 
neither did the prophet Jonas persuade it to the Nine- 
vites, nor the prophets ever reprove the not observing it, 
in the Assyrians or Egyptians, the Idumeans and Moabites, 
the Tyrians and Sidonians, or any of their neighbours, whose 
vices they oftentimes reproved severely : and the best men 
of the first and second world, Abel and Enoch, Noah and 
Melchisedec, Shem and Job, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and 
Joseph, knew nothing of it, and yet were dear to God : but 
if the law had consisted of essential, prime, and natural 


rectitudes, it had been always and every where ; and if it 
consist not of such, it is not fit to be lasting, but itself calls 
for a change when all the body and digest of laws, excepting 
some few that were before that law and shall be for ever, 
either were experiments of their obedience, or significations 
of some moral duty implied in the external ritual, or com- 
pliances with a present necessity, and to draw them far from 
imitation of the vile customs of the nations, or were types 
and shadows of something to come thereafter. 

5. The law of Moses was a covenant of works, and stipu- 
lated for exact obedience ; which because no man could per- 
form, and yet for great crimes committed under Moses's law 
there was there no promise of pardon, no solemnity or per- 
fect means of expiation, by the nature of things, and the 
necessity of the world, and the goodness of God, a change 
was to be expected'. 

6. That their law and covenant should be changed was 
foretold by the prophets ; particularly by the prophet Jere- 
miah, 8 " I will make a new covenant with you in those 
days, and in your minds will I write it:" and when God had 
often expressed 11 his dislike of sacrifices, in which yet the 
greatest part of the legal service was established, God does 
also declare what that is which he desires instead of it; even 
no other than the Christian law, 1 " That we should give to 
every one their due, and walk humbly with God ;" that they 
should obey him, and " give him the sacrifice of a contrite 
and a broken heart :" and if this be not a sufficient indica- 
tion of the will of God for the abolition of the Mosaic law, 
then let this be added which was prophesied by Daniel, 
" The Messias shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to 

7. It was prophesied k that, in the days of the Messias, 
the Gentiles also should be the people of God ; but, there- 
fore, they were to be governed by a new law ; for Moses's 
law was given to one people, had in it rites of difference and 
separation of themselves from all the world, and related to 
solemnities which could not be performed but in a certain 
place, and a definite succession and family ; which things 

I Jer. xxzi. 31, &c. * Psalms 1. li. xl. 

' Isaiah, i. Jer. vii. Micah, ri. k Jer. xxiii. Isaiah, xliii. Malachi, i. 


being the wall of partition and separation, because Christ 
hath taken away or confounded in an inseparable mixture 
and confusion, God hath proclaimed to the Jews, that Moses's 
law is not that instance of obedience in which he will be 
any longer glorified. 

From these premises the pretence of the Jews for the 
eternity of Moses's law will be easily answered. For whereas 
they say that God called it an ' everlasting covenant,' it is 
certain that even amongst the Jews, the word ' everlasting' 
did not always signify ' infinitely,' but to a ' certain definite 
period.' For the law relating to the land of their possession, 
in which God promised to them an everlasting inheritance ; 
as their possession of the land is everlasting, so is the cove- 
nant, and they expired together : for all the demonstrations 
of the Spirit of God, all the miracles of Christ and his 
apostles, all the sermons of the Gospel, all the arguments 
which were taken from their own books, could not persuade 
them to relinquish Moses's law and adhere to Christ : and, 
therefore, when all things else did fail, God was pleased to give 
them a demonstration which should not fail ; he made it 
impossible for them to keep Moses's law ; for he broke their 
law and their nation in pieces. But as to the word ' ever- 
lasting' and 'eternal' it was usual with them to signify but 
to the end of a life, or of a family, and therefore much rather 
of a nation. The band of marriage is eternal, but it dies with 
either of the relatives : and the oath of allegiance is for ever, 
but that ' for ever' is as mortal as the prince. Thus also in 
Moses's 1 law, " The servant whose ear was bored, should 
serve for ever," that was but till the year of jubilee : and 
Hannah carried up her son to the temple when he was 
weaned, " that he might abide there for ever:" thus the 
priesthood of Phinehas was said to be for ever; but God 
who said that he " and his posterity should walk before the 
Lord for ever," did put a period unto it in Eli. n But besides 
this, it is observable that the law and covenant of Moses, 
according to the manner of speaking of that and other 
nations, is used to distinguish it from the more temporary 
commands which God gave to persons and to families, and 
to the nation itself in the wilderness, which were to expire, 

1 Erod. xxi. 6. 1 Sam. i. 22. 1 Sam. ii. 30. 


as it were, with the business of the day; but this was to be 
for ever, even as long as they enjoyed a being in the land of 
their covenant : for thus we distinguish the laws of peace 
from the orders of war : those are perpetual, to distinguish 
from the temporality of these. 

These arguments are relative to the Jews, and are in- 
tended to prove the abrogation of Moses's law against them. 
But to Christians, I shall allege the words and reasons of 
the New Testament, so far as the thing itself relates to con- 
science. For not only the Jews of old, but divers Christian 
bishops of Jerusalem, fifteen in immediate succession, did 
plough with an ox and an ass, and were circumcised ; the 
converted Pharisees, the Ebionites, the Cerinthians, and 
the Nazareei, still did believe that Moses's law did oblige the 
conscience : and amongst us there are or have been a great 
many Old Testament divines, whose doctrine and manner of 
talk, and arguments, and practices, have too much squinted 
toward Moses. 

But against all such practices or pretences I produce the 
decree of the apostles at Jerusalem in the question of circum- 
cision : the abrogation of which disannuls the whole law: 
" For I Paul say unto you, if ye be circumcised, ye are 
debtors to keep the whole law :" therefore, by a parity of 
reason, we are not debtors to keep the law, when that great 
sacrament and sanction of the law is annulled. To this pur- 
pose are those frequent discourses of the Holy Scriptures of 
the New Testament : " The law and the prophets were until 
John ; since that time the kingdom of God is preached :"P 
where the two terms of the law and the Gospel are expressly 
described; John the Baptist being the common term between 
them both, so that ' now we are not under the law, but 
under grace ;' q ' we are dead to the law,' and, that band 
being separate, * we are married to a new husband, even to 
Christ :' ' who is also our High-Priest, after the order of 
Melchisedec, not after the order of Aaron ;' r but then, * the 
priesthood being changed, there is made, of necessity, a 
change also of the law;' 3 for this was not to last but till 

Iren. lib. i. c. 26. Epiphan. haer. 18, 28, 30, 66. Hieron. Ep.lzxxix. 
ad Augustin. Damasc. verb. Nazaraei. Euseb. lib. iii. c. 21. Augustin. hares. 
8 and 9. 

P Luke, xvi. 16. 1 Rom. vi. 14. r Rom. vii. 4. Heb. vii. 12. 


Christ's coming, ' for the law was given but till the seed 
should come :' till then, ' we were under the law as under a 
schoolmaster, but when faith came, we are no longer under 
this peedagogy;' 1 it was but 'until the time appointed of the 
Father:' and to this purpose St. Paul spends a great part of 
the epistles to the Romans and Galatians. For one of the 
great benefits which we receive by the coming of Christ, is, 
that we are now treated with by a covenant of faith, that is, 
of grace and pardon, of repentance and sincere endeavours; 
the covenant of Moses being a prosecution of the covenant 
of works, can no longer oblige, and therefore neither can the 
law ; for the law and the covenant were the constitutive parts 
of that whole intercourse, they were the whole relation, and 
this is that which St. John said, " The law came by Moses, 
but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ :" and ever since 
he was made our Lord and our King, he is our Lawgiver, and 
we are his subjects, till the day of judgment, in which he 
shall give up the kingdom to his Father. 

But the greatest difficulty is behind : for not all Moses's 
law is disannulled, for some is enjoined by Christ; and some 
is of eternal obligation : and such the decalogue seems to be : 
the next inquiry therefore is, what part of Moses's law is 
annulled by Christ? To this I answer by parts. 


The Ceremonial Law of Moses is wholly void. 

FOR this is that handwriting of ordinances which Christ 
nailed to his cross : and concerning this we have an express 
command recorded by the apostle, 3 " Let no man judge you 
in meat or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the 
new moon, or of the Sabbath days :" and, concerning the 
difference of meats, not only their own doctors say, ' the 
precept of Moses is not obligatory any where but in Pales- 
tine,' but they have forgot the meaning of the names of 
some of them, or at least dispute it, which is not likely they 

' Gal. iii. Coloss. ii. 16. 


would so strangely have lost, if the obligation also had not 
been removed. But as to us the case is confessed : for all 
the arguments, before alleged, proceed of this part of the 
Mosaic law, if of any, this being chiefly made up of umbrages, 
figures, and imperfect services, relative to place and time, to 
families and separate persons, such which every change of 
government could hinder, and which, in the conflict and 
concussion with other laws, did ever give place, even in that 
time when they were otherwise obligatory, which "could 
not cleanse the conscience, nor take away sins;" but were 
a burden made to teach something else, like letters written 
upon little cubes, or given as appellatives to slaves, that the 
children who were waited on by them, might learn, the 
alphabet ; but else they were a trouble, to no real perfective 
purpose of our spirits. 

Quest. I know but of one difficulty which this thing can 
meet with, and that is made by the scrupulous inquiries of 
some tender or curious persons, who suppose the difference 
of meats not to be so wholly taken away, but that still, under 
the laws of the Gospel, we are bound to abstain from blood 
and from things strangled ; pretending for this scruple, the 
canon of the apostles b at Jerusalem : which enjoins this 
abstinence, and reckons it amongst the ra avayxaTa, " things 
necessary :" and this was, for a long time, used and observed 
strictly by the Christians : of which we have testimony from 
the law c of Leo the emperor, where, having forbidden the 
use of blood stuffed in the entrails of beasts, he affirms, that, 
in the old law and in the Gospel, it was always esteemed 
impious to eat it. And this was not only for the present, 
and for compliance with the Jews, that, by the observance of 
some common rites, the Gentile converts might unite with 
the believing Jews into one common Church, but they sup- 
posed something of natural reason and decency to be in it; 
and the obligation to be eternal, as being a part of that law 
which God gave to Adam, or at least to Noah after the 
flood; for they who use to eat or drink blood, are apt to 
degenerate into ferity and cruelty, and easiness of revenge ; 
and if Origen's fancy had been true, it had been very 
material ; for he supposed that the devils were fed with 

b Acts, xv. Novel. 58. 


blood : but, however, certain it is that the Church did, for 
divers ages, most religiously abstain from blood ; and it was 
the great argument, by which the primitive Christians did 
confute the calumnies of the heathens imputing to them the 
drinking of human blood : they could not be supposed to do 
that, who so religiously abstained from the blood of beasts, 
as we find it argued inTertullian, d Minutius, 6 and Eusebius, f 
who also tells of Biblis, that she rather would die than eat 
blood in a pudding : and in the canons commonly called 
Apostolical, 5 it is forbidden to a clergyman to eat blood, 
under pain of deposition, to lay a man under excommunica- 
tion : which law was mentioned and supposed obligatory in 
the second canon of the Council of Gangra ; and long after 
by the canon of the Council in Trullo ; by the Council of 
Worms under Ludovicus Pius ; h by Pope Zechary, in his 
epistle to Boniface ; and from hence the penitential books 
had warrant enough to impose canonical penances upon 
them that did taste this forbidden dish : and that they did 
so is known and confessed. 

But to the question and inquiry, I answer, 1. That the 
abstinence from blood is not a law of nature or of eternal 
rectitude, as appears, first, in that it was not at all imposed 
upon the old world ; but for a special reason given to the 
posterity of Noah to be as a bar to the ferity and inhuman 
blood-thirstiness of which the old giants were guilty, and 
possibly others might afterwards. For the Jews reckon but 
six precepts given to Adam and his posterity after the fall. 
The first, against strange worship ; the second, of the wor- 
shipping the true God ; the third, of the administration of 
justice ; the fourth, of disclosing nakedness, or a prohibition 
of uncleanness ; the fifth, against shedding blood ; the sixth, 
against theft : and indeed here are the heads of all natural 
laws ; but because the old world grew cruel to beasts, and 
the giants were degenerated into a perfect ferity, and lived 
on blood ; therefore it pleased God to superadd this to Noah, 
that they should not eat blood ; that is, that they should not 
eat the flesh of beasts that were alive ; that is, " flesh with 

d In Ap. c. ix. In Octav. * Eccles. Hist. lib. v. c. 1. 

B Cap. Ixii. Vide etiam Clemen. Alex. Paedag. lib. iii. c. 3. Niceph. lib. ir. 
c. 17 ; et idem videre est apud Lucianum in Pereg. 
h Cap. IXT. 



the blood :" and it is not to be despised that the drinking of 
blood is not forbidden, but the eating only : meaning, that 
the blood was nor the main intention of the prohibition ; but 
living flesh, that is, flesh so long as the blood runs from it : 
" flesh with the life thereof," that is, " with the blood r" 1 so 
run the words of the commandment ; and therefore the 
doctors of the Jews expressed it by the not Bearing a member 
of any live creature : which precept was the mounds of 
cruelty, God so restraining them from cruelty even to beasts, 
lest they might learn to practise it upon men. For God 
sometimes places some laws for defensatives to others; and, 
by removing men afar off from impiety, he secures their 
more essential duty. 2. But even this very precept is, by 
all the world, taught to yield to necessity and to charity, 
and cruelty to beasts is innocent when it is charity to men : 
and, therefore, though we do not eat them, yet we cut living 
pigeons in halves and apply them to the feet of men in fevers, 
and we rip the bellies of sheep, of horses, of oxen, to put 
into them the side of a paralytic ; and although, to rude 
people and ignorant, such acts of security were useful, yet, 
to Christians, it is a disparagement to their most excellent 
institution, and the powers and prevalencies of God's Spirit, 
to think they are not upon better accounts secured in their 
essential duty. The Jews were defended from idolatry by a 
prohibition even of making and having images ; but he is 
but a weak Christian who cannot see pictures without 
danger of giving them worship. 3. The secret is explicated 
by God in the place where he made the law : it was first a 
direct design to introduce mercy into the world, by taking 
care even of beasts : and, secondly, it was an outer guard 
against the crime of homicide : and Irenaeus, Tertullian, 
St. Cyprian, and St. Ambrose, expound the meaning of the 
whole affair to be nothing else but a prohibition of homicide : 
for as God would have men be gentle to beasts, k so if beasts 
did kill a man, it should be exacted of them : ' neither the 
man's dominion over the beast could warrant his cruelty over 
them, nor the want of reason in beasts bring immunity if 
they killed a man, and the consequent and purpose of both 
these is expressed, verse 6, " Whoso sheddeth man's blood, 

1 Gen. ix. 4. k Verse 4. ' .Verse 5. 


by man shall his hlood be shed ;" and all this put together 
is a demonstration how dear lives are to God ; even the life 
of beasts is, in one sense, sacred : for even then when they 
were given to man for food, yet the life was not; they must 
first be dead hefore they might be eaten : but, therefore, the 
life of man was sacred in all senses, and should be required 
of man and beast. But that God doth even take care for 
oxen, in the matter of life, appears in this prohibition, " Flesh 
with the life thereof ye shall not eat ;" that is, you shall not 
devour the flesh even while it is alive ; for the blood is the 
life thereof; that is, when the blood is gone, you may eat, 
till then it is presumed to be alive. Now there can be no 
other meaning of the reason : for if blood were here directly 
prohibited to be taken and drunk or eaten, this reason could 
not have concluded it, " Because it is the life, therefore you 
may not eat it," being no better an argument than this, 
' you may not eat the heart of a beast, for it is the life 
thereof;' but the other meaning is proper, " Ye shall not eat 
flesh with the blood, which is the life thereof," that is, so 
long as the blood runs, so long ye must not eat ; for so long 
it is alive : and a beast may be killed, but not devoured 
alive. So that the prohibition of blood is not direct in the 
precept, but accidental ; blood is forbidden, as it is the sign 
of life and the ' vehiculum' of the spirits, the instruments of 
life ; and so long as it runs, so long the life abides ordinarily ; 
and therefore Zonarus, in his notes upon the Council of 
Gangra, expounds the word alfia, or ' blood,' supposed in 
that canon as unlawful to be eaten or drunken, by egsx/rtiBss 
s-^opsvov, xai ffriyvupevov, " blood diligently or fast running or 
following the wound, and thick ;" that is, as I suppose, 
1 blood digested,' to distinguish it from ' serum sanguinis,' 
or the watery blopd that is seen in beasts after they have 
bled, that they might not have scruple in minutes and little 
superstitions : y^h l-T/r^guroD a'I/j,a,rog, " without active 
blood," so Balsamo ; and it is not impertinent to the main 
inquiry, that it be observed that the Jews use ' life' instead 
of ' blood ;' and so does the vulgar Latin ; that we might 
the easier understand the meaning to be of ' life,' or * living 
blood.' But then this is nothing to eating the blood, when 

m Vide S. Aug. lib. ii. c. 6, contra adversarimn legis et prophetarum. 


the beast is certainly dead : and, therefore, it is observable, 
that they who did make a scruple of eating blood, did not, 
all of them, make a scruple of eating things strangled in 
which the blood remained ; and, therefore, in some copies of 
the apostolical decree, the word Tv/xroS, or * strangled,' is 
left out ; and St. Austin observes, that in his time, in Africa, 
the Christians did not severely abstain from things strangled. 
For if the case were the same between blood running and 
blood settled and dead, then the reason of the commandment 
were nothing or not intelligible ; and, besides, it would breed 
eternal scruples : since, in the very killing of beasts, there 
will some blood remain, and in the neck pieces and some 
veins every body hath observed some blood remaining even 
after the effusion by the knife. 4. This could not be a law 
of nature, because not mentioned by Christ in all his law, 
which I have already proved to be a perfect digest of the 
natural law : only that sense of it which I have now given, is 
involved in a law of nature, and consequently enjoined by 
Christ, viz. under the precepts of mercy, according to that 
saying of the wise man, " A good man will be merciful to his 
beast :" and the Athenians put a boy to death, because he 
took delight to prick out the eyes of birds, and so let them 
fly for his pastime ; as supposing that he who exercised his 
cruelty upon birds, being a boy, would in time destroy 
men too. 5. Upon the account of this interpretation, we are 
to distinguish the material part from the formal ; the blood, 
as it is such a substance, from the blood, as it is alive; just 
as the !i6u7^ura are to be differenced : for to eat the meat 
when it is sold in the shambles, is a thing indifferent, said St. 
Paul, though it was offered to idols; but this very meat 
might not be eaten in the temples, nor any where under that 
formality, as St. Paul there discourses : and, therefore, what 
the apostles, in their letter to the Churches, call e/' 
St. James, in the decision of the question, calls 
ruv siduXuv, " pollutions of idols," that is, all communica- 
tions in their idolatrous portions and services : and so it is for 
blood ; * abstain from life blood, or blood that runs while the 
beast is dying ;' that is, devour not the flesh while the beast 
is alive, be not cruel and unmerciful to your beast : but 

Acts, XT. 20. o \ Cor. x. 25. 


if blood be taken in its own materiality when the beast is 
dead, it may be eaten, as other things, without scruple ; they 
being both in the same sense as in the same obligation, 

AIU.O. St fin iftfyitiv, ilauXoffuTuv a Kit'i%if6tti, 

There is a letter and a spirit in both of them. 6. One thing 
only I shall add to make this appear to have been relative, 
temporal, and ceremonial ; and that is, that when God was 
pleased to continue the command to the sons of Israel in 
Moses's law, he changed the reason, only reciting the old 
reason for which it was imposed to the posterity of Noah, 
and superadding a new one as relating to themselves : " For 
the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to 
you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls ; 
for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."? 
So that to the blood there was superadded a new sacredness 
and religion ; it was typical of the great sacrifice upon the 
cross, the blood of which was a holy thing, and it was also 
instrumental to their sacrifices and solemnities of their 
present religion : and, therefore, this ritual is to cease after 
that the great sacrifice is offered, and the great effusion of 
blood is past. But as they had a new reason, so also had 
they a new injunction, and they were interdicted the eating 
of any thing strangled ; which they taking to be a pursuance 
of the precept given to Noah, were the more zealous of it ; 
and lest their zeal might be offended, the first Christians, in 
their societies, thought fit to abstain from it. But this ever 
had a less obligation than the former, and neither of them 
had, in their letter, any natural obligation : but the latter 
was introduced wholly upon the Levitical account, and, 
therefore did cease with it. 7. After this so plain and 
certain commentary upon this precept, I shall the less need 
to make use of those other true observations made by other 
learned persons : as that this canon was made for a tempo- 
rary compliance of the Gentile proselytes with the Jewish 
converts, that this was not a command to abstain from 
blood, or strangled, but a declaration only that they were 
not obliged to circumcision ; but they already having ob- 
served the other things, it was declared they need go no 

P Levit. xvii. 11. 


further: that whereas these things were said to be neces- 
sary Ka.vay>ifs, the meaning of the word is not absolute but 
relative ; for it is lv ava-yxqs e%/v, ' ^ nave a thing under 
some necessary condition,' and so it happened to them to 
whom the apostles wrote ; for they were Gentile proselytes 
before they were Christian, and so were tied to observe the 
seven precepts of Noah, before the Jews would converse 
with them ; and, therefore, that this did not concern the 
Gentiles, after they were an entire church : for although it 
did while the separation lasted, and that there were two 
bishops in some great churches, as in Rome and Ephesus : 
yet when the Church WHS of Gentiles only, or conversed not 
witli Jews, this eould not relate to them. That blood should 
be forbidden in .the formality of meat is infinitely against 
the analogy of the Gospel : the decretory and dogmatical 
words of Christ 9 being, " that nothing which enters into 
the mouth, defiles a man;" and the words of Paul r are 
permissive and preceptive, " Whatsoever is sold in the 
shambles, eat, asking no questions for conscience' sake. For 
meat commendeth us- not to God ; for neither if we eat, are 
we the better ; neither if we eat not, are we the worse :" and 
" the kingdom of God consisteth not in meat and drink, but 
in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." * 
The result is this, that blood, as it is a meat, cannot be sup- 
posed here to be directly forbidden as naturally unlawful, or 
essentially evil, or of a proper turpitude ; but if the apostles 
had forbidden the very eating of blood as meat, it must be 
supposed to be a temporary and relative command, which 
might expire by the ceasing of the reason, and did expire by 
desuetude ; but since it was not so, but a permitting the 
Gentile proselytes and encouraging them, for present reasons, 
to abstain from running or life blood in the sense above 
explicated, according to the sense of the Jewish doctors and 
their disciples, it no way can oblige Christians to abstain 
from blood when it is dead, and altered, and not relative to 
that evil which was intended to be forbidden by God to 
Noah, and was afterwards continued to the Jews. I end this 
with the words of Tertullian, 1 " Claves macelli tibi tradidit, 

q Matt. xv. 11. * Cor. x. 25. 

Rom. xir. 17. l De Jejuniis. 


permittens esui omnia ad constituenclam idolothytornm excep- 
tionera ; God hath given to us the keys of the shambles, 
only he hath forbidden the pollution of idols:" in all other 
things you have your liberty of eating. 

I am only now to give an account of the reasons of the 
ancient Churches, why so pertinaciously and so long they 
refused to eat boiled blood, or any thing of that nature. 
But for that it is the less wonder, when we consider, that they 
found it enjoined by all the Churches where the Jews were 
mingled ; and the necessity lasted in some places till the 
apostles were dead, and the Churches were persecuted : and 
then men use to be zealous in little things, and curious ob- 
servers of letters; and when the succeeding ages had found 
the precedents of martyrs zealous in that instance, it is no 
wonder if they thought the article sufficiently recommended 
to them. 2. But if we list to observe that the Pythagorean 
philosophers were then very busy and interested in the per- 
suasions of men and sects, and Pythagoras, and Plato, and 
Socrates, had great names amongst the leading Christians, it 
is no wonder if, in the percolation, something of the relish 
should remain, especially having a warrant so plausible to 
persuade, and so easy to mistake, as this decretal of the apo- 
stles, and the example of the ancients living in that time, 
which the heathens call the golden age. 

At vetus ilia aetas, cui fecimus Aurea nomen, 
Fcetibus arboreis, et, quas humus educat, herbis 
Fortunata fuit, nee polluit ora cruore." 

Single life, and abstinence from certain meats, and refusing 
of blood, and severity of discipline, and days of abstinence, 
were sometimes persuaded, sometimes promoted, sometimes 
urged, sometimes made more necessary, by the Montanists, 
the Essenes, the Manichees, the Novatians, the Encratites, 
the Pythagoreans, and the very heathen themselves, 
when, because they would pretend severity, it became fit 
that the Christians should not be or seem inferior to them in 
self-denial, discipline, and austerities. But I shall make no 
more conjectures in this matter ; since if the Church at that 
time did enjoin it, the canon was to be obeyed, and, it may 
be, in some places, it was practised upon that stock ; upon 

u Ov. M. xv. 96. Mitscherl. vol. ii. p. 125. 


any other just ground, it could not, as I have already proved. 
Only this ; it cannot be denied but in the Western Church, 
where this decree and the consequent custom was quickly 
worn out, though it lasted longer even to this day in the Greek 
Church, and Balsamo inveighs against the Latins for their 
carelessness in this article ; yet there were some intervals, in 
which, by chance, this decree did prevail ; but it was when 
the bishops of Rome were so ignorant, that they could not 
distinguish the Old Testament from the New, but in some 
particulars did judaize. I instance in Pope Zechary, before 
mentioned ; who, in his decretal to Boniface, the archbishop 
of Mentz, is very curious to warn him to forbid all Christians 
with whom he had to do, they should abstain from some 
certain sorts of birds, as jackdaws, crows, and storks; but 
especially that Christians should eat no hares, nor beavers, 
nor wild horses : and the Council of Worms determined 
something to the like purpose, not much wiser ; but what 
was decreed then, was long before reproved by St. Austin,* 
affirming, that if any Christian made a scruple of eating 
strangled birds, in whom the blood remained, he was derided 
by the rest : and that this thing, which was useful in the 
infancy of the Church, should be obtruded upon her in her 
strength, is as if we should persuade strong men to live upon 
milk, because their tender mothers gave it them as the best 
nourishment of their infancy. 

This thing being cleared, I know no other difficulty con- 
cerning the choice of meats in particular, or the retention of 
the ceremonial law in general, or in any of its instances, but 
what will more properly be handled under other titles. 


The Judicial Law of Moses is annulled, or abrogated, and 
retains no obliging Power, either in whole or in part, over 
any Christian Prince, Commonwealth, or Person. 

EITHER the judicial was wholly civil, or it was part of the 
religion. If it was wholly secular and civil, it goes away 

* Cent. Faustum Munich, lib. xxxii. c. 13. 


with that commonwealth to whom it was given ; if it was 
part of the religion, it goes away with the temple, with the 
lawgiver's authority by cession to the greater, with the 
priesthood, with the covenant of works, with the revelation 
and reign of the Messias: and though the instances of this 
law, proceeding from the wisest lawgiver, are good guides 
to princes and commonwealths, where the same reasons are 
applicable in like circumstances of things, and in equal 
capacities of the subjects, yet it is wholly without obligation. 
In the judicial law, theft was not punished with death, but 
with the restitution of fourfold ; and unless the necessities of 
a republic shall enforce it, it were consonant to the design of 
Christian religion, the interest of souls, their value and 
pity, that a life should not be set in balance over against 
a sheep or a cup. In the judicial law of Moses, adultery was 
punished with death ; but it will not be prudent for a com- 
monwealth to write after this copy, unless they have as great 
reason and the same necessity, and the same effect be likely 
to be consequent ; it was highly fitting there, where it was so 
necessary to preserve the genealogies, and where every family 
had honours, and inheritances, and expectations of its own, 
and one whole tribe expected in each house the revelation 
of the Messias, and where the crime of adultery was infinitely 
more inexcusable by the permission of divorces and poly- 
gamy than it can with us. But with us, and so in every 
nation, many considerations ought to be ingredient into the 
constitution of a capital law : but they have their liberty, 
and are only tied up with the rules and analogies of the 
Christian law: only the judicial law of Moses is not to be 
pretended as an example and rule to us, because it came 
from a Divine principle ; unless every thing else fit it by 
which the proportions were made in that commonwealth ; 
for although God made aprons for Adam and Eve, it would 
not be a comely fashion for the gallants of our age and 
countries. But concerning this who desires to see long and 
full discourses, I refer him to Gulielmus Zepperus ' de Legibus 
Mosaicis,' and the preface of Calvin, the lawyer, to his 
' Themis Hebrfeo-Romana.' 

But the thing in general is confessed, and the arguments 
now alleged make it certain : but then why it should not be 
so in every particular, when it is confessed to be so in the 


general, I do not understand ; since there are no exceptions 
or reservations of any particular in the new law, the law of 
Christianity. But in two great instances this article hath 
difficulty ; the one is, 1. The approach of a man to his wife 
during her usual term of separation. 2. The other is con- 
cerning the degrees of kindred hindering marriage ; both 
which being taken express care of in the judicial law, and 
yet nothing at all said of them in the laws of Christ, are yet 
supposed to be as obligatory to Christians now, as to the 
Jews of old. Of these I shall now give account, because 
they are of great use in the rule of conscience, and with 
much unquietness and noise talked of, and consciences 
afflicted with prejudices and authority, with great names and 
little reasons. 

Quest. Whether the judicial law of mutual abstinence in 
the days of women's separation, obliges Christian pairs? 

The judicial law declared it to be twice penal. Once it 
only inferred a legal uncleanness for seven days. Levit. xv. 
24. But, in the Levit. xx. 18, it is made capital to them 
both : " They shall be both cut off from the people." 

From hence, Aquinas, Alexander of Ales, Bonaventure, 
and Scotus, affirm it to be a mortal sin for a husband then to 
approach to her : Peludanus andCajetandenyit; and amongst 
the casuists, it is with great difference affirmed or denied but 
with very trifling pretences, as if they were to give laws, 
and not to inform consciences upon just grounds of reason or 

They who suppose it to be unlawful, affirm this law to 
be ceremonial, judicial, and moral. It is ceremonial, because 
it inferred a legal impurity ; or separation for seven days. 
It is judicial, by its appendant sentence of death, and a 
capital infliction. It is moral, because it is against charity, 
as being hurtful to the child in case any be begotten by 
such approaches. The whole ceremoniality of it is con- 
fessedly gone ; but the punishment of it in the judicial law 
being capital, they urge it as an argument that it is moral. 
So that the whole weight lies upon this. That which was 
by the law of God punished with death, was more than a 
mere ceremony, and must contain in it some natural obli- 
quity and turpitude. And in this case we need not to go 
far iu our inquiry after it ; for it is because of the great 


uncharitableness, as being a cause of monstrous productions, 
or leprosies and filthy diseases in the children : and as the 
former of these two signifies its morality, so this does for- 
mally constitute it ; and this is confirmed by the words an- 
nexed to the prohibition : " For the nations committed all 
these things, therefore 1 abhorred them :" a amongst which, 
this in the question being enumerated, it will follow more 
than probably, that since this thing was imputed to the 
1 eat hens, who were not under Moses's law, it must be 
imputed because it was a violation of the law of nature. 

To these things I answer ; 1 . That the punishment of all 
such approaches under Moses's law with death, was no argu- 
ment of any natural turpitude and obliquity in the approach. 
For then circumcision would be necessary by a natural law, 
because every soul that was not circumcised, was also to be 
cut off from his people. But if for this reason it were only 
to be concluded unlawful, then, since this reason is taken 
away, and it is by no law of God punishable, nor yet by any 
law of man, it follows that now it cannot be called a mortal 
or a great sin, to which no mortal punishment is annexed, 
nor indeed any at all. 

2. But neither was it just thus in the law of Moses. 
For by the law of Moses it was nothing but a legal impurity, 
a separation from the temple, and public sacrifices, and some 
sorts of commerce for seven days ; and thus much was also 
imposed upon the woman, though she was locked up and 
conversed with no man, even for her natural accident ; and 
if, by the gravity or levity of a punishment, we may make 
conjectures of the greatness of a sin (of which I shall, in the 
third book, give accounts), then it would follow that every 
such approach was nothing but a breach of a legal rite or 
ceremony, since it was punished only with a legal separation, 
which also was equally upon every innocent woman in that 
period. Yea, but besides this it was made capital. I 
answer, that could not be, if the case were the same ; for two 
punishments are not in laws inflicted upon the same offence, 
directly and primarily : and, therefore, Radulphus Flavia- 
censis b supposes here to be a direct contradiction in the 
letter of these two laws ; and that they are to be reconciled 

a Levit. xx. 23. b Explan. in Lerit. c. vi. 


by spiritual significations, in which only they are obligatory 
to us under the Gospel; but I do not very well understand 
what he would have, nor any ground of his conjecture ; but 
am content it is not material, since he confesses that the 
very letter obliged the Israelites, which how it is possible, 
and yet be contradictory, I shall never understand. Hugo 
Cardinalis says, that the first of these punishments was on 
him who did it ignorantly ; but it was capital only to him 
who did it knowingly and voluntarily. But this is not pro- 
bable ; for then it would be in effect so that the man might 
only contract a legal impurity, and the woman be sure to 
die for it ; 

Enimvero dura lege bic agunt mulieres : 

for although the man could often say truly, and might always 
pretend that he did it ignorantly, yet the woman could not: 
for it is not likely that she should, with much probability, 
at any time say she did it ignorantly ; and since it cannot 
be but by a rare contingency, it is not likely to be the subject- 
matter of a regular law, and provided for by a daily and per- 
petual provision ; especially since that case is already pro- 
vided for in other periods, as being sufficiently included 
under them that by chance touch a woman so polluted : and 
therefore this does not reconcile the difficulty : but since it 
must be confessed, that on the woman (at least ordinarily), 
both these laws must have effect; and yet the woman cannot 
easily and ordinarily be supposed to be ignorant in such a 
case so as to need a law (for laws use not to be made for 
rare contingencies), it follows that this distinction is not 
sufficient to reconcile the difficulty. But Lyra and Abulensis 
have a better, saying that the legal impurity was the punish- 
ment only when the fact was private; but it was capital 
when it was brought before the judge ; and truly for this 
there was great reason. For since the woman also was to 
die, it is not to be supposed that she would accuse her 
husband and condemn herself, and such things use not to be 
done publicly ; it is therefore to be supposed, that whoever 
did do this so as to be delated for it and convicted, must do 
it ev ;// vxsgnpaviaf, " with the hand of pride," in contempt 
and despite of Moses's law ; for which, as St. Paul witnesses, 
" a man was to die without mercy." But now from hence I 


infer, that since the contempt and open despite of the law 
only was capital, it was not any natural turpitude that de- 
served that calamity ; it was nothing but a legal uncleanness, 
which every child had that did but touch her finger. 

But then for the next argument, with which the greatest 
noise is made ; and every little philosopher can, with the 
strength of it, put laws upon others, and restraints upon men's 
freed consciences ; I answer, first, upon supposition that it 
were true and real, yet it does not prove the unlawfulness of 
such addresses. For if the man and woman have a right 
to each other respectively, there is no injury done by using 
their own right. " Nemo damnum facit, nisi qui id facit 
quod facere jus non habet," saith the law. c But that is not 
the present case, for the married pair use but their own 
rights, which God hath indulged. And therefore Paulus, d 
the lawyer, from the sentence of Labeo, hath defined, that no 
man can be hindered from diverting the water running 
through his own grounds, and spending it there, though it 
be apparent that his neighbour receives detriment, to whom 
that water would have descended. I know this may be 
altered by laws, customs, and covenants ; but there is no 
essential injustice in it, if loss comes to another by my using 
my own right. To which I only add this one thing, because 
I am not determining a title of law in open court, but writing 
rules of conscience ; that though every such interception of 
water, or other using of our right to our neighbour's wrong, 
be not properly injustice, yet, unless he have just cause to 
use it, it is unlawful to do so, because it is uncharitable ; 
because then he does it with a purpose to do his neighbour 
injury. And so it is in this : if any man or woman in such 
approaches intend hurt to the child, as hoping the child 
might not live; or if either of them designed that the child 
should by such means become hated, or neglected in pro- 
visions, and another preferred, then I doubt not but to pro- 
nounce all such mixtures impious and abominable : and to 
this sense those words of St. Austin 6 in this article are to be 
expounded : " Per talem legem in Levitico positam non 

c Lib. Nemo, de Regul. Juris. d Lib. ii. de Aqua Pluvia Arcenda. 

e Qu. 64. super Levit. 


naturam damnari, sed concipieridae prolis noxiam prohiberi." 
The thing itself is not naturally impure ; but it is forbidden 
that hurt should be intended or procured to the child : for 
although, in the instance of Paul us above reckoned, the 
injury is certain, and the person definite and known to whom 
it is done, and in the present question both the event at the 
worst is but uncertain, and the person to be injured not yet 
in being, and therefore the case is much more favourable 
here than there, yet when this case does happen, there can 
be no excuse for it, because it is the act of an evil mind and 
an uncharitable spirit. 

2. Upon supposition that this allegation were true, yet 
it follows not that all such approaches were unlawful : as 
appears in the case of a leprous wife, with whom that it is 
lawful to have congress, is so certain that it is told as a 
heroic story of Dominicus Catalusius, a prince of Lesbos, 
that he did usually converse with his wife that was a leper, 
as still knowing it to be his own flesh, which no man hates : 
but if with a leper (whose issue is as certain to be leprous, 
as in the other case to be any way diseased) it be lawful, the 
effect notwithstanding, then the argument ought not to 
infer a prohibition, or conclude it to be unlawful. The same 
also is the case of both men and women in all hereditary 
diseases, and in any diseases which are resident in any prin- 
cipal part, with any of which if either of them be infected, 
it is (if this reason be good) equally unlawful for them to 
beget children, or to use the remedy which God hath given 
them against uncleanness. 

If it be answered that there is difference in the case, 
because the present question being of short, frequent, and 
periodical separations, the married person may expect na- 
ture's leisure, who will in a short time return them to their 
usual liberties ; but if they have a leprosy, that goes not off, 
but abides ; and therefore either a child must be begotten 
with that danger, or not at all ; and since it is better for a 
child to be born a leper, or subject to leprosy than not to be 
at all ; in this case there is indeed charity, in some sense, 
but no uncharitableness in any to the child ; and there is a 
necessity also on the parents' part. The same also is the 
case of a consumption, or any hereditary disease : but in the 


monthly separations there is no such need, because the 
abstinence is but short ; and though a child be not then 
begotten, he loses not his being, as in the other cases : 

To. this I reply ; that the difference of case pretended is 
not sufficient, 1 . Because a consumption or a leprosy are no 
such incurable diseases, but that, for the preventing of un- 
charitableness and sad effects upon the child, they may 
expect nature's time ; and if it be said, that there is,-or may 
be, danger of fornication in so long abstinence ; I answer, so 
there may be in the shorter, and is certainly to some persons ; 
and if the danger be an excuse, and can legitimate the con- 
gression, even where there is hazard to have a diseased child 
begotten, in one case, then so it is in the other. For where 
there is the same cause in the same suscipient, there also 
will be the same effect : so that at least thus much will be 
gotten ; that if there be a need, in the time of a short sepa- 
ration, then it is lawful ; and if it can upon this account be 
innocent, it is certain that it is not naturally criminal. 
2. Suppose even this affection or accident abides on the 
wife, as on the woman in the Gospel, who, after twelve years' 
sufferance, was cured by the touch of our Saviour's garment ; 
then there is the same necessity as in an abiding leprosy, 
consumption, or hereditary disease ; and yet in the Mosaic 
law those permanent emanations were to be observed by 
abstinence as much as the natural and transient ; by which 
it is certainly proclaimed to be wholly a legal rite ; because 
if this can abide, and during its abode an approach be not 
permitted, although the Jews were relieved by divorces, and 
polygamy, and concubinate, and so might suffer the law ; 
yet Christians, who are bound to an individual bed, will find 
a necessity, which if it were not provided for by a natural 
permission, the case of some men would be intolerable, and 
oftentimes sin be unavoidable, and that which by accident 
may be lawful and necessary, certainly is not essentially evil : 
for if it could, then he who is the author of such necessity, 
would also necessarily infer that evil, and so be author of 
that too, which is impossible to be true of God, the fountain 
of eternal goodness. But I add also this consideration ; 
that, even in the Mosaic law, such congressions were per- 
mitted after child-birth. For the legal impurity lasted but 
seven days upon the birth of a man-child, "according to 


the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be 
unclean ;" that is, for seven days she shall have the same law 
upon her as in her usual period, but no longer : for that 
which is added/ " that she shall then continue in the blood 
of her purifying three and thirty days," it is not for absti- 
nence from her husband, but from entering: into the taber- 

* O 

nacle, and from touching holy things : so that the uncleanness 
being determined five weeks before her purification was com- 
plete, must be in order to contact or to nothing. 

But although upon supposition the allegation were true, 
yet the reason of it concludes not ; yet the argument is in- 
finitely the worse, since the supposition is false, and the 
allegation is not true. For besides that the popular heresies 
of physic and philosophy are now rarely confuted and re- 
proved by the wise physicians of these later ages, who have 
improved their faculty as much as any of the schools of 
learning have done theirs, and the old sayings of philosophers 
in this matter are found to be weak, and at the best but 
uncertain ; the great experience of the world is an infinite 
reproof to them who say, that by such congressions leprous 
or monstrous children are produced ; for the world would 
have been long since very full of them, if such evil effects 
were naturally consequent to those meetings. St. Jerome g 
was the first who brought this pretension into the Christian 
schools (so far as I can learn) ; afterwards the schoolmen 
got it by the end, and the affirmative hath passed ever since 
almost without examination. But the schoolmen h generally 
affirm (being taught to speak so by Aquinas), that it is partly 
ceremonial, partly moral, and that in this only it is obli- 
gatory, " ex damno quod sequitur ex prole ;" which, because 
it hath no ground to support it, must fall into the common 
lot of fancies and errors, when their weakness is discovered. 
For although those physicians, which say that this natural 
emanation is a y.dQaggii, or * cleansing,' do believe that, with 
the principles of generation, there may in such times be 
something 'minus salubre* intermingled; yet, besides that, 
these are opposed by all them who say that it is nothing but 
a xsvuffig, or * evacuation ; ' both the one and the other are 

1 LeviL xii. 4. K In xliv. Isai. 

h Franc, a Vic. de Sacramen. de Redd. Deb. Con. 


found to be imperfect, by the new observations and. experi- 
ments made by a learned man, who finds that neither one or 
other can be the material part of nature's secret fabric. But 
however, whether he says so or no, since things are so infi- 
nitely .uncertain, and man is made secretly and fashioned 
* in secreto terra?,' these uncertain disputes are a weak 
foundation of a pretext for a moral duty. 

To the last objection : that " God abhorred the nations 
for all these things :" and amongst them this is reckoned ; 
and, therefore, there was in this some natural impurity, for 
by no other law were they bound, and they could not be 
found to be transgressors against each other : I answer ; 
that "all these things" are to be taken 'concrete et con- 
fuse,' all indiscriminately in a heap, 'not all by singular 
distribution, as appears (besides this in question) by the 
instance of marriage in certain degrees ; which the servants 
of God did use, and yet God delighted in them ; for Abraham 
married his father's daughter, and yet this was reckoned 
amongst their catalogue of crimes, 1 and so also in the case of 
the brother's wife, which is there reckoned, yet we know it 
was permitted and enjoined in the case of heiresses being 
childless widows : but when the thing was by God inserted 
into the digest of their laws and made capital, it happened 
to be mingled with other prohibitions, which were of things 
against the laws of nature. But to this objection I shall 
speak again in the question of cousin-germans, num. 36 and 
37 of this rule. 

The arguments now appearing to be invalid, I answer to 
the question. 1. That this abstinence was a Mosaic law, 
partly ceremonial, partly judicial, but in no degree moral. 
2. That the abrogation of Moses's law does infer the nulli- 
fying of this, and hath broken the band in pieces. 3. That 
the band which tied this law upon the Jews, was the fear 
of death and fear of a legal impurky ; which fears being 
banished, and no new one introduced by our Lawgiver, we 
are not under restraint ; and if we will be careful to observe 
all that is commanded us in Christ's law, it will be work 
enough, though we bind not on men's shoulders unnecessary 
burdens. 4. It is a part of the spirit of bondage to be 

Lev. xx. 17, 21. 


subject to ordinances; bnt God will now be served Try a 
more spiritual religion, and to abstain, as in the present 
instance, and to think it is a part of God's service, is super- 
stition ; it is to worship him with an instance that he hath 
not chosen, or commended : and, therefore, it is remarkable 
that when St. Paul k gave order to married pairs, w uvogreetTrs 
aXXjjXoug, "Defraud not one another;" he only gives this 
exception, " except it be by consent for a time, that ye may 
give yourselves to fasting and prayer ; and come together 
again, that Satan tempt you not," bio. rfo uxgagiav Ipuv, " for 
your want of power," and command over your desires and 
necessities. Abstinence, in order to special religion, is 
allowed and commended, and that by consent, and that 
but for a sudden occasion, and that so short, that it may 
not become an occasion of Satan's temptations ; whatsoever 
is over and besides this, may be upon the account of Moses, 
but not of Christ and Christianity. 5. I speak this only to 
take off a snare from men's consciences laid for the unwary 
by unskilful masters of assemblies, so that all I say of it 
is, that it may be done lawfully. 6. But that which does 
only recommend it, is, where there is necessity that it be 
done. 7. It is sufficient though the necessity be not abso- 
lute, if it be only ordinary and probable : for if this were 
not so, instead of allaying storms, and appeasing scruples, 
and breaking snares, they would be increased and multiplied ; 
for it will be a hard thing, in most cases of that nature, to 
say that the necessity is absolute. 8. But since there is 
in such congressions a natural abhorrence amongst most 
persons, and a natural impiety, if that which invites to it 
be not at least a probable necessity, it must be a great un- 
decency and violence of a wanton spirit. 9. It must always 
be without scandal and reproach. For even among the 
Jews it was only a legal impunity, if it be done without 
scandal ; but if, with contumacy and owning of it, it came to 
outface the modesty and authority of the law, then it became 
deadly : and so it may now, if that which is not of good 
report, be done and offered to the report of all them which 
can condemn the folly and impurity, but cannot judge of 
the necessity or the cause ; and the fact, by becoming 

k 1 Cor. vii. 5. 


scandalous, is criminal, as much as when it is done 
without a probable necessity, and only upon lustful consi- 

Some, in their answers to this inquiry, make a distinction 
of the persons ; affirming it in this case to be unlawful to 
ask, but lawful to pay, a duty if it be demanded. But if it be 
naturally unlawful, it is then inexcusable in both : for neither 
must the one tempt to an unlawful act, nor the other consent 
to it ; and there can be no obligation to pay that debt which 
no man can lawfully demand. Neither of them hath a right 
against God's law ; and therefore the case is equal in them 
both. He or she that complies, does actually promote the 
sin, as well as the other that invites, and therefore in Moses's 
law they were equally criminal and punished with death. 
But if it be not naturally unlawful (as it appears it is not), 
then it may as well be demanded as yielded to, when there 
is a probable necessity ; but concerning that, the passive 
party is to believe the other ; for if it be known to be other- 
wise, he or she that consents, does consent to an act which 
is made unlawful by evil circumstances. 

Of the Prohibition of Marriage in certain Degrees. 

But the next inquiry concerning an instance in the judi- 
cial law is yet of greater concernment ; for all those degrees, 
in which Moses's law hath forbidden marriages, are supposed 
by very many nowadays, that they are still to be observed 
with the same distance and sacredness, affirming, because 
it was a law of God with the appendage of severe penalties 
to the transgressors, it does still oblige us Christians. This 
question was strangely tossed up and down upon the occa- 
sion of Henry VII I/s divorce from Queen Catherine, the 
relict of his brother, prince Arthur ; and according as the 
interest of princes uses to do, it very much employed and 
divided the pens of learned men ; who, upon that occasion, 
gave too great testimony with how great weaknesses men, 
that have a bias, do determine questions, and with how 
great force a king, that is rich and powerful, can make his 
own determinations. For though Christendom was then 
much divided, yet before then there was almost a general 
consent upon this proposition, that the Levitical degrees do 


not, by any law of God, bind Christians to their observation. 
I know but of one schoolman that dissents ; I mean Paluda- 
nus ; or if there be any more, I am sure they are but very few, 

Vel duo vel nemo ; 

but the other opinion 

Defendit numerus, junctseque umbone phalanges. 

But abstracting from all interests, and relative considerations, 
I shall give as full account of this as I can, because the 
questions of degrees and the matters and cases of incest are 
not so perfectly stated as the greatness of the matter and the 
necessities of the world require ; and besides this, it is at 
this day a great question amongst all men, Whether bro- 
thers' and sisters' children, or cousin-germans, may lawfully 
marry? which question supposes, that not only the Levi- 
tical degrees are still thought obligatory, but even all those 
other degrees, which by a parity of reason can be reduced to 
those measures. I shall therefore give an account of the 
sentence of all laws in this great question, which can be 
supposed to oblige us. 

Of Parents and Children. 

Concerning this, I suppose it to be evident that nature 
hath been as free in her liberties as in her gifts, open-handed 
enough to all ; save only that she hath forbidden parents 
and children, higher and lower in the direct line, for ever to 
marry. Just as rivers cannot return to their fountains, nor 
evenings back again to their own mornings from whence 
they set out, nor yesterday be recalled, and begin again 
to-morrow. The course and order of nature is against it ; 
and for a child to marry the parent is for to-day to marry 
yesterday, a going back in nature. 

ilium, ilium sacris adbibere nefastis, 
qui semet in ortus 

Vertit, et indignse regent sua pignora matri. 1 

To which may be added this other sufficient natural reason, 
that, if a son marries his mother, she who is in authority 

1 Stat Theb. iv. 630. Bipont, p. 248. 


greater by right of geniture, becomes ' minor in matrimonio,' 
less upon the same material account upon which she became 
greater; and the duty and reverence of a mother cannot be 
paid to her by him who is her husband : which I find well 
intimated by Phaedra to Hippolytus, 

Matris superbum est nomen, et nimium potens. m 

Besides these, there is a natural abhorrence of such 
mixtures ; " Contra pudorem esse," said Paulus the lawyer ; 
" it is against natural modesty:" which was rarely verified 
in the trial which the Emperor Claudius made (wittily and 
judiciously, like that of Solomon upon the two harlots) upon 
a wicked woman who called him (who indeed was her son) 
a stranger, a beggar, the son of another woman, and sup- 
posititious, that so she might defeat him of his father's 
inheritance. The emperor, espying her malice, and suspect- 
ing her machination, found out this trial : ' If he be not your 
son, yet because he is young and handsome, rich and 
possessed of the inheritance, the title of which you would 
snatch from him, you shall marry him, and so possess him 
and the inheritance too.' She, though desperately base, 
refused that offer, and though she was unnaturally malicious, 
yet would not be unnaturally incestuous ; and chose to 
suffer the shame of discovery rather than the horrors of such 
a mixture. 

But all this was not sufficient to make it to become a 
natural law, without the authority of God intervening. This 
made it to be excellently reasonable to be established into a 
law, and, therefore, God did so, and declared it, and did not 
trust man's reason alone with the conduct of it ; but then it 
became an eternal law when God made it so : and that was 
at the very first bringing of a wife to Adam. " For this 
cause shall a man leave his father and his mother," said God, n 
by his servant Moses, declaring to us what God then made 
to be a law, " and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall 
be one flesh." This could not on both sides concern Adam, 
who had no natural father and mother, and, therefore, was a 
law given to all that should be born from him ; when they 

Senec. HippoL 609. Schroder, p. 265. B Gen. ii. 24. 


took a wife or a husband respectively, they must forsake 
father and mother, for between them and their children there 
could be no such intercourse intervening : and so the Jews, 
particularly Rabbi Selomoh, expounds the place ; and it was 
necessary this should then be declared, for as yet the mar- 
riage of brother and sister was not forbidden, saith the 
Gemara Sanhedrin ; and in obedience to this, because Adam 
had no other, he laid aside the love of earth and rain, of 
which he was produced, said Isaac Abravanel ; and by this, 
they usually reconcile the seeming difference between these 
words and the fifth commandment. A man shall leave his 
father and mother ; and yet he must honour his father and 
mother : he must never leave to honour them ; but when he 
intends to marry, he must forsake all thoughts of contracting 
with either of them. Now the mother and the wife being 
the opposite terms in the progression, he must leave one, and 
adhere or be united to the other, it must needs be that 
dereliction, or forsaking, or going from the mother, not 
relating to honour, but to the marriage, means that the 
child must abstain and depart from all thoughts of such 
conjunction. A mother is not less to be loved, less to be 
honoured, after marriage than before ; and, therefore, in no 
sense relating to this is she to be forsaken ; therefore it must 
be in the other : and this our blessed Saviour recorded also in 
his law, where whatsoever is not sufficiently found, cannot 
pretend to be a law of nature, as I have already proved. 

And now this being established and recorded as a law of 
nature in that way only that is competent, the disagreeing 
sentences of some men, and the contrary practices of nations, 
is no argument against it. Indeed I said in the first chapter, 
that the consent of nations is not sufficient to establish a 
natural law ; for God only makes the sanction ; but when he 
hath made it and declared it, the disagreeing practices of 
great portions of the world cannot annul the establishment. 
It is not sufficient to prove it to be a natural law, because 
wise people consent to it ; but if God have made it so, it is a 
natural law, though half the world dissents: and, therefore, 
we are not in this affair to be moved at all, if wise men 

Matt. six. 5. 


should, in any age, affirm the marriages of sons and mothers 
to be lawful. So Diogenes and Chrysippus affirmed upon a 
ridiculous conceit, that cocks and hens did not abhor it. 
Against which impertinent argument/ although it were 
sufficient to oppose the narrative which Aristotle makes of a 
camel, and the Scythian horse who brake his own neck out 
of detestation of his own act, to which he was cozened by 
his keeper ; for 

Ferae quoque ipsae Veneris evitant nefas, 
Generisque leges inscius servat pudor :1 

yet it is better to set down this reasonable proposition ; 
That a thing is against the law of nature, when, being for- 
bidden by God, it is unnatural to men, though it were not 
against the nature of beasts. But as the authority of these 
men is inconsiderable, and their argument trifling, so also 
the disagreeing practice of some nations in this particular is 
wholly to be despised : 

Gentes tamen esse feruntur, 

In quibus et nato genetrix, et nata parenti 
Jungitur . r 

The Assyrians, the Medes, and Persians, especially the most 
honoured persons amongst them, their kings and their magi, 
did use it frequently : 

Nam Magus ex matre et nato nascatur oportet. 

But the original and cause of this horrible and unnatural 
custom, we can so reduce to its first principle, that there 
can remain no suspicion but that they did prevaricate the 
law of nature. For when Nimrod had married his mother 
Semiramis, and presently introduced the worship of fire, 
making that to be the Assyrians' and Persians' god, he was 
gratified by the devil. For, as Saidus Batricides, the patri- 
arch of Alexander, reports, the devil out of the fire spake to 
his first priest, that none should officiate in his rites, unless 
he would first lie with his mother, his sister, and his 
daughter. And Sham, the priest (for that was the name of 

P Hist. Animal, lib. ix. c. 46. Plin. Nat. Hist. viii. 42. Varro de Re 
Rustica, ii. 7. 

i Senec. Hippol. 913. Schroder, p. 285. 

r Ov. Metam. x. 331. Gierig. vol. ii. p. 100. 


the beast), did so, and so together with his prince became 
an authentic precedent to all generations of degenerous 
brutes ; and was imitated by all that empire. 

taiourav -ran TO Gagfiugai yitts' 

Harfig ft SuyotTg/, vrous TI fttiTgi ftlyvureu' 

xxi ruo ebon i^tig'yii tefitf.* 

But what Xenophon said of the Persians, is also true of all 
the nations together, who were debauched by their laws and 
accursed customs : " Non eo minus jus esse, quia a Persis 
contemnebatur ; It is still the law of nature, though pre- 
varicated by the Persians, and their subjects and friends." 
For when any thing appears to be so ro?$ vte/eroig, xai adiaergo- 
<poi$ t xal psra <pvffiv %ouff/v, " to most, and to the uncorrupted 
nations, and to them who live according to natural reason,"* 
it is a great presumption, it is indeed a natural law ; and is 
so finally, if a command of God hath intervened in that 
instance : for by the Divine appointment it is made a law, 
and by the matter, order, -and use of it, it is natural. But 
for the rest to whom these things seemed otherwise than 
God and nature did agree, they were abused by none but by 
their own lusts ; they were, as a punishment of their vilest 
sins, given over tig craSj anfiiag, to unnatural, to dishonour- 
able, and unreasonable desire, 

Cui fas implere parentem 

Quid rear esse nefas? 

But this was the product of their idolatry, and some other 
basenesses : of the first St. Paul is witness," that as a con- 
sequent of their forsaking the true God, they were given 
over to unnatural lusts ; and Lucan* observes the latter of 
the Parthians, 

Epulis vesana meroque 

Regia, non ullis exceptos legibus horret 
Concubitus . 

Now what is the effect of superinduced crimes and follies, is 
most contrary to nature ; and it were unnatural to suspect 
that she had not made sufficient provisions in this prime 

Eur. Andr. 174. Priestley's edition of Euripides, vol. iv. p. 26. 

' Michael Ephes. in Arist. >53i*. Ad Xicomacb. 

u Rom. i. 21, &c. Pharsal. yiii. 401. Oudendorp. p. 632. 


case, upon pretence, because some unnatural persons have 
spoiled and defaced or neglected her laws.- v One thing by 
the bye I shall insert. I find Socrates noted by some, that he 
said, ' there is, in the marriage of parents and children, 
nothing to be reproved but the disparity of age.' But this is 
a mistake ; z for though he brought that incompetent reason 
against it, yet for other causes he abhorred it : accounting it 
to be a law established by God and nature, MTS yovsag vaiai, 
&c. " That parents and children should abhor such mar- 
riages." For God and all the world, heaven and earth, do 
so : insomuch that a Roman philosopher was, in his dream, 
warned not to bury the corpse of a Persian who had married 
his mother. 

ris TO* S.Bct-rrat' ia xvfi xvoptt yttifffuf 
FJJ a-avrai* ftrirti^ f&vrgo<p9-ogoy au Vi%tr avJga' 

"The earth, who is the common mother of all, will not 
receive into her womb him that defiled the womb of his 
mother :" a and the story says, that the ground spewed out the 
corpse of such a one that had been buried : and Virgil "> 
affirms, that in hell there are torments prepared for him, 

Qui tbalamum invasit natae, vetitosque hymenaeos ; 

* who pollutes his daughter's bed/ and defiles himself with 
such forbidden entertainments. 

Of Brothers and Sisters. 

2. But though nature forbids this, yet the other relations 
are forbidden upon other accounts. Nothing else is against 
the prime laws of nature, but a conjunction in the right 
ascending and descending line. The marriage of brothers and 
sisters was at first necessary ; and so the world was peopled : 
all the world are sons and daughters, descending from the first 
marriages of brother and sister. But concerning this, that 
I may speak clearly, let it be observed, that although the 
world does generally condemn all such and the like marriages, 
under the title of ' incestuous,' yet that is not properly ex- 
pressed, and leaves us to seek for the just grounds of reproof 
to many sorts of unlawful marriages, and some others are 

1 Vide Tiraq. lib. vii. Connub. n. 22. * Xenoph. lib. iii. 

Agath. Hist. 2. * ^n. vi. 623. 


condemned by too great a censure. The word ' incest' is not 
a Scripture word, but wholly heathen : and signified amongst 
them all unchaste and forbidden marriages, such which were 
not hallowed by law and honour ; an inauspicious conjunc- 
tion ' sine cesto Veneris,' in which their goddess of love was 
not president ; marriages made without her girdle, and so 
' ungirt,' ' unblessed.' This word, being taken into the 
civil law, got a signification to be appropriate to it ; for 
there were three degrees of unlawful marriages : ' damnatae,' 
' incestse,' and < nefariae.' 'Damnatae nuptiae' are such 
which the law forbids upon political considerations ; such as 
are between the tutor or guardian and the orphan or pupil, 
between a servant and his mistress, between a freedman and 
his patroness ; and such was, in the law of Moses, between 
the high-priest and a widow ; and in Christianity, between a 
priest and a harlot, and between any man and her whom he 
defiled by adultery, while her first husband was alive, all 
marriages with virgins professed and vowed. There is in 
these so much unreasonableness of being permitted, that by 
the law they stood condemned, and had legal punishments 
and notes of infamy proportionable. * Incestae nuptiae' are 
defined in the law c to be ' coitio consanguineorum vel 
affinium ; the conjunction of kindred or allies,' meaning, in 
those instances which are by law forbidden : and these are 
forbidden upon differing considerations from the former, viz. 
for their nearness of blood and relation, which the laws 
would have disseminated more or less, for their approach to 
unnatural marriages, for outward guards to the laws of 
nature, for public honesty, and compliance with the customs 
of their neighbours, of the same interest, or the same 
religion, or for necessary intercourse. But because unskilful 
persons or unwary have called ' unnatural' mixtures by the 
name of ' incestuous,' as incestuous Lot, and the incestuous 
Corinthian ; therefore, whatever any law calls ' incest' they 
think they have reason to condemn equally to those abomi- 
nable conjunctions. But neither ought ' incest' to be con- 
demned with a hatred equal to what is due to these, d neither 
ought these to be called ' incest : ' for in true speaking these 

c C. Lex ilia. Sect, incest. 36. q. 1. L. si adult, cum incest, in prin. D. 
de Adult. 

d Text, in Authentic, de Incest. Nupt. in Princ. Collat. 2. 


are not * incestae nuptiae,' but ' nefariae,' and ' naturae con- 
trariae,' " wicked or abominable, and contrary to nature :" 
for although the law sometimes calls those mixtures, which 
are between kindred, by the title of 'nefariae,' or impious, 
yet it is to be understood only of that kindred which is, by 
the law of God and nature, forbidden to marry : so the 
gloss* in ' Authentic, de Incest. Nupt.' affirms, so Archidia- 
conus, Johannes Andreus, Covaruvias, and the best lawyers : 
and the word is derived from the usage of it in the best 
authors: "Ferae quoque ipsae Veneris evitant nefas ;" the 
conjunction of parents and children is ' nefas Veneris,' and 
the marriages ' nefarious.' Now of this deep tincture none 
are, excepting marriages, in the right ascending arid descend- 
ing line. The marriages of brothers and sisters are inces- 
tuous, and the worst degree of it : and so forbidden by the 
laws of all civil nations : but, therefore, they are unlawful 
only because forbidden by positive laws ; but because the 
prohibition is not at all in the laws of Christ, therefore it 
cannot be accounted against the prime law of nature, of 
which that is a perfect system. Not that it can, in any case 
of present concernment or possibility, become lawful, or, for 
any reason, be dispensed withal by any power of man ; for it 
is next to an unnatural mixture, it hath in it something of 
confusion, and blending the very first partings of nature, it is 
of infinite vile report, intolerably scandalous, and universally 
forbidden. But though this be enough, yet this is not all. 

Michael of Ephesus f says, that at the first these mar- 
riages were indifferent, but made unlawful by a superinduced 
prohibition. And, indeed, if they had been unnatural, they 
could not have been necessary. For it is not imaginable, 
that God, who could, with the same facility, have created a 
thousand men and as many women, as one, would have built 
up mankind by that which is contrary to human nature : and 
therefore we find, that, among the wisest nations, some 
whom they esteemed their bravest men did this. Cimon, 
the son of Miltiades, married his sister, Elpinice, " non 
magis amore quam more ductus," said Cornelius Nepos, g 
" not only led by love, but by his country's custom." 

* C. cum secund. Leges de Haeret. in 6. f In 5. ad Nic. 

* Vide Cimon, i. 2. Fischer, p. 102. 


So Archeptolis, the son of the brave Themistocles, h married 
his sister, Mnesiptoleraa. Alexander, the son of Pyrrhus, 
king of Epirus, married his sister Olympias; Mithridates 
married his sister Laodice ; Artemisia was sister and wife to 
Mausolus, king of Caria ; so was Sophrosyna, to Dionysius, 
of Syracuse ; Eurydice, to Ptolemseus Philopater ; Cleopatra, 
to Ptolemaeus Physcon ; Arsinoe, to Ptolemeeus Philadel- 
phus ; whom when Sotades had reproved upon that account, 
saying, ovx sis OOV'TJV rgi/^aA/ai* rb xsvroov u&t?;, he imprisoned 
him. But I need not bring particular instances of Egyp- 
tians : for Diodorus Siculus affirms, that they all esteemed 
it lawful, and Dion Prusaeensis says, that all the Barbarians 
did so. 1 

But all the Greeks j did so too, having learned it from 
their princes, whom after ages had turned into gods, 

Dii nempe suas habuere sorores : 

Sic Saturnus Opim, junctam sibi sanguine, duxit, 
Oceauus Tethjri, Junonem rector Olympi.* 

Though I suppose that this is but a fabulous narrative, in 
imitation of the story of Cain and Abel, as appears by their 
tale of Jupiter and Prometheus ; which is well noted by the 
observator upon the mythologies of ' Natalis Comes,' under 
the title of 'Jupiter.' But that which moves me more than 
all this, is the answer which Tamar gave to her brother 
Amnon : " Now therefore speak unto the king, for surely he 
will not withhold me from thee," and yet she was his father's 
daughter, his sister by the paternal line : and Abraham told 
the king of Gerar concerning Sarah, his wife; "and yet 
indeed she is my sister, she is the daughter of my father, but 
not the daughter of my mother;" that is, the daughter of 
Terah, as was generally supposed, of which I shall yet give 
further accounts. Now it is not to be supposed, that either 
Abraham before, or David after the law, would have done or 
permitted any thing against the law of nature : and if it was 
against positive law, as it happened in the case of Amnon 
and David, the marriage might be valid though forbidden, 
and the persons be excused upon some other account, which 
is not proper here to be considered. 

h Plut. in Them. p. 128. ' Vide Lucian. lib. de Sacrificiis. 

J Vide Alex, ab Alexan. lib. i. c. 24. Genial. JDierum. 
k Ov. M. ix. 496. Gierig. vol. ii. p. 47. 


But I again renew what I said before, this discourse is 
not intended so much as secretly to imply that it can now at 
all be, or be made, lawful, or is at any hand to be endured. 
For the marriage of brother and sister is against a secondary 
law of nature; that is, it. stands next to the natural pro- 
hibition, and is against a natural reason, though not against 
a prime natural law. Every reason, indeed, is not a sufficient 
indication of a law, nor a natural reason of a natural law; 
but when the reason is essential to nature consigned by God, 
then it is : and as a reason approaches nearer to this, so the 
action is more or less natural or unnatural : and this is the 
case of brother and sister. For the reverence which is due 
to parents hath its place here also, " propter recentem 
admodum parentum in liberis imaginem ;" and therefore it is, 
with greater reason, forbidden : and, if it were not, the whole 
world might be filled with early adulteries. For the dear- 
nesses of brother and sister, their cohabitation, their likeness 
of nature and manners, if they were not made holy and sepa- 
rate by a law, would easily change into marital loves ; but 
their age and choice would be prevented by their too early 
caresses : and then since many brothers might have the same 
kindness to one sister, or might have but one amongst them 
all, the mischief would be horrible and infinite. 

Dulcia fraterno sub nomine furta tegemus. 
Est mibi libertas tecum secreta loquendi, 
Et damus amplexus, et jungimus oscula coram ; 
Quantum est, quod desit ! ' 

For these and other accounts, which God best knew, he 
was pleased to forbid the marriage of brothers and sisters : 
this law, the Jews say, God gave to Adam under the title 
* De non revelanda turpitudine ;' but yet so, that it was not 
to be of force till mankind were multiplied : but then it took 
place as men did please. But this they say upon what 
ground they please ; for it is highly improbable that the law 
of nature should be allowed years of probation, or that it 
should be a prime law of nature, which the nature of things 
and the constitution of the world did make necessary to be 
broken. But because God did afterwards make it into a 
law, and there is now very great reason that it should be a 

1 Ov. M, ix. 557. Gierig. vol. ii. p. 51. 


law, and the reason is natural, and will be perpetual, and all 
Christian nations, and all that have any formed religion, 
have agreed to prohibit such marriages ; he that shall do 
so unreasonably, and, as things now stand, so unnaturally 
and so foolishly, as either to do it or teach it, must be of 
no religion, and of no people, and of no reason, and of no 

Of Mothers-in-Law, and their Husbands 1 Children. 

That the marriage of these is not against the law of 
nature, St. Austin 1 " does expressly affirm in his questions 
upon Leviticus ; saying that * there is forbidden the disco- 
vering his father's nakedness ;' but this is not to be understood 
of the father while he is alive, for that is forbidden in the 
prohibition of adultery: " Sed ibi prohibetur matrimonium 
contrahi cum illis, quas seclusa lege licet uxores ducere ; 
Marriage is there forbidden to be made with them, with whom 
otherwise it were lawful to contract :" but for this there can 
be no reasonable and fair pretence. For a mother-in-law 
and a mother are all one in the estimation of all the laws of 
the world, and therefore were alike in the prohibition : and 
the contrary was never done but by them who had no pre- 
tence for it, but ' quod libet, licet;' ' whatsoever a man hath 
a mind to do, that he may do :' for this was the argument, 
which Phaedra n courts Hippolytus withal ; 

Nee, quia privigno videar coitura noverca, 

Terruerint animos nomina vana tuos. 
Ista vetus pietas, SEVO moritura future, 

Rustica Saturno regna tenente, fuit. 
Jupiter esse pium statuit, quodcunque juvaret ; 

Et fas omne facit fratre marita soror. 

The impiety of their gods seemed to be their warrant, and 
their pleasure was all their reason, their appetite was their 
argument. But this we find sufficiently condemned by St. 
Paul, " It is a fornication, which is not so much as named 
amongst the Gentiles, that one should have his father's 
wife." Cajelan supposes, that this Corinthian did lie with 
her while his father was alive ; because the apostle calls 
her not the widow, but the wife of his father. 1 am of his 

a Quest. 61. n O?id. Ileroid. ep. ir. 129. Mitscberl. vol. i. p. 20. 


opinion, but not for that reason ; because that expression he 
uses not so much to describe the person as to aggravate the 
crime : but that it was in his father's lifetime I am induced 
to believe by the word crovs/a, ' fornication,' which though it 
be often used for ' adultery,' yet 1 find it not used for ' nuptiee 
nefariae,' or that which is usually called ' incest.' But how- 
ever, that which St. Paul notes here and so highly abomi- 
nates, is not the adultery, but the impiety of it ; not that it 
was a wife, but his father's wife ; and therefore although 

' * c5 

even so it were a high crime and of a deep tincture, yet the 
unnaturalness and the scandal of it St. Paul here condemns : 
it was the same that Antiochus did to Stratonice, the wife 
of his father Seleucus, and that which Reuben did to the 
concubine of his father Jacob ; a thing so hateful to all 
nature that the very naming of it is a condemnation ; and 
therefore is all one with the prime natural law of prohibition 
of the conjunction of parents and children : for she that is 
one flesh with my father, is as near to me as my father, and 
that is as near as my own mother ; as near I mean in estima- 
tion of the law, though not in the accounts of nature ; and 
therefore, though it be a crime of a less turpitude, yet it is 
equally forbidden, and is against the law of nature, not 
directly, but by interpretation. 

Of Uncles and Nieces. 

Now if the nearest of kin in the collateral line were not 
forbidden by a law of nature, much less are they primely 
unlawful that are further off. The ascending and descending 
line cannot marry, but are forbidden by God in the law of 
nature : so mothers-in-law and their husbands' children : and 
brothers and sisters are, by the laws of all the world, and for 
very great reason, forbidden, but not by the law of nature. 
But, for all other degrees of kindred, it is unlawful for them 
to marry interchangeably, when and where they are forbidden 
by a positive law, but not else ; and therefore the marriages 
of uncles and nieces, or aunts and nephews, become unlaw- 
ful, as the laws of our superiors supervening make it so,- 
but was not so from the beginning, and is not so by any law 
of Christ. 

In the civil law of the Romans, it was lawful for the 
uncle to marry the brother's daughter, and this continued by 


the space of two hundred and fifty years from the days of 
Claudius to the reign of Constantine, or thereabouts : and 
though this began among the Romans upon the occasion of 
Claudius's marrying Agrippina, yet .himself affirms (as Ta- 
citus makes him to speak) " Nova nobis in fratrum filias 
conjugia: sed aliis gentibus solennia,nec lege ulla prohibita ; 
Indeed it is new to us, but to other nations usual and lawful :" 
and the newness of it scared Domitian so that he refused it; 
and not many did practise it ; only I find that a poor obscure 
libertine, T. Alledius Severus, did it, as Suetonius (Claud. 26) 
observes : but it was made, lawful by the civil law, and 
allowed in the rules of Ulpian ; and when Nerva had repealed 
the law, Heraclius reduced it again, and gave the same 

But that which moves me more is, that it was the practice 
of the Jews, the family of Abraham, and the council of the 
wise men to do so, as Ben Maimon, the famous Jew, reports : 
" In monitis sapientium habetur, ut in uxorem ducat quis 
ante alias, neptem ex sorore, seu ex fratre neptem, juxta id 
quod dicitur, a carne tua ne te abscondas:" and Josephus does 
suppose, that when Abraham said of Sarah, * She is my sister, 
the daughter of my father,' the truth is, she was his father's 
grandchild, that is, the daughter of Abraham's brother : for 
unless it had been a known thing in that nation, that Abra- 
ham's family would not have married their german-sisters, 
it could have been no security to Abraham to pretend her 
to be so : for she might be his wife and his sister too, unless 
such marriages had been unlawful and rejected. But then 
when Abraham was reproved for his lie, he helped the matter 
out with a device ; she was his father's daughter, that is, 
by the usual idiom of that family, the child of his father 
descending by his brother: and this was St. Austin's? opi- 
nion, " Nam qui maxime propinqui erant, solebant fratres et 
sorores appellari ;" and Cicero 41 calls his cousin, Lucius, 
brother ; so Lot r is called Abraham's brother, though he was 
but the son of his brother Haran, just as near as his wife 
Sarah was to him, whom for the like reason he called sister. 
But of this I shall yet give a further account. But whether 

Annal. xii c. 6. Ruperti, p. 293. P Lib. IT. de Civit. Dei. c. 16. 

De fin. T. c. 1. Davis. Rath. p. 378. ' Gen. xiii. 8. 


Josephus said true or no, Abraham said true, that is certain ; 
either she was his half-sister or his brother's daughter; either 
of which is forbidden in Leviticus ; and this sufficiently de- 
clares that they have their unlawfulness from a positive law, 
not from any law of nature. 

If it were needful to instance in any other great examples 
of such marriages, it were very easy to do it. Amram, the 
father of Moses, married his aunt, as some suppose ; Dio- 
medes and Iphidamus, among the Greeks, married their 
mothers' sisters ; and Alcinous took to wife Arete, his bro- 
ther's daughter. Andromeda was promised to her uncle 
Phineus. One of the Herods married his brother's daughter, 
and yet was not (so far as we find) reproved for it; and he gave 
his own daughter to his brother Pherotas ; and some suppose 
this to be the case of Othniel, in the days and under the 
conduct of Joshua. For the words in the story are these : s 
" And Othniel, the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took 
it : and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife : " but of 
this I shall give a particular account : for this being against 
the law of Moses by which they were bound, was not to be 
supposed easily to have been done by so pious persons : but 
all that I contend for, is, that it was not unlawful before the 
law of Moses : against these marriages there was no " opus 
scriptum in cordibus," no law of nature, but they became 
unlawful upon another account ; and, therefore, it was unlaw- 
ful to them only, to whom that account was to be reckoned. 

Of the Marriage of Cousins- German. 

From the premises it will abundantly follow, that no 
person ought to be affrighted with the pretences of any 
fierce and mispersuaded person, that the marriage ofcousins- 
german is against the law of nature : and in this case a man 
need least of all to fear; for the law of nature is a known 
and evident thing, it is notorious and felt, and if any man 
shall need to be told what is against natural reason, which 
is the matter out of which all natural laws are framed, he 
may as well have .need to be reminded when he is hungry 
or thirsty. For although some persons have got a trick to 
scare their proselytes from a practice to which they have no 

Josh. xv. 17. 


mind, by telling them it is against the law of nature, when 
they can prove it upon no other account to be unlawful, so 
making the law of nature to be a sanctuary of ignorance 
and an artifice to serve their end, just as the pretence of 
occult qualities is in natural philosophy ; yet concerning the 
law of nature, it being imprinted in our hearts, explicated by 
Christianity, relying upon plain, prime, natural reason, a 
man may as much need to be told when himself does a thing 
against his own will, as when he does against his own reason 
and his own nature. Only it is certain, that when education 
and our country customs have, from the beginning, possessed 
our understandings and our practices, so that we never saw 
any other usage of things or heard talk of any other, it 
looks as if it came from nature, and were something of her 
establishment : so St. Paul to the Corinthians, " Does not 
even nature herself teach, that it is a shame for a man to 
wear long hair ?" that is, even in nature there is the signifi- 
cation of some difference in that matter, which custom hath 
established into a law : but in such cases as these, a wise man 
can easily distinguish words from things, and appearances 
from firm establishments. But that the law of nature hath 
nothing to do in the marriage of cousins-german, save only 
that she hath left them to their liberty, appears from all the 
premises, which in this instance, as being further removed, 
must needs conclude stronger than in their own. 

But then, in the next place, if the inquiry be made, what 
it is in the judicial law of Moses, which is the main of our 
present inquiry ; supposing the judicial law of Moses could, 
in any of its instances, oblige Christians, yet cousins-german 
were still free to marry : for I do not so much as find it 
pretended by any one to be there forbidden, except St. Am- 
brose, who disputing fiercely against Paternus for marrying 
his son to his grandchild by another venter, that is, so as the 
young gentleman was uncle to his wife, in anger against 
that, says that by the law of God (meaning in Leviticus) 
cousins-german are forbidden to marry, much more (says 
he) 1 uncle and niece : " Qui enim leviora astringit, graviora 
non solvit sed alligat ; He that binds to the less, does not 
untie the greater." But the event of this is only that St. 

* S. Amb. ep. 66, ad Paternum. 


Ambrose is by all learned men condemned for an 
fAvwovevnxbv, ' a slip in his memory :' and men ought to be 
wary, lest great names abuse them by opinion and mis- 
taken zeal. 

But the law is this, Levit. xviii. 6, " None of you shall 
approach to any that is near akin to him, to uncover their 
nakedness : I am the Lord." Here the questions use to be, 

1. What is meant by " none of you ?" . 

2. What is intended by " near of kin to you?" 

" None of you ;" " Vir vir non accedet : " a,vdgu-iro$ avQgu<rog 
in the LXX. " A man, a man shall not approach :" so it is 
in the Hebrew : that is, say the rabbins, ' the Jew and the 
Gentile shall not.' I shall not contend for it, or against 
it. I suppose it may well be admitted, that potentially all 
mankind was included, that is, all who were born to Israel, 
or adopted by being proselytes, were bound to this law, Jews 
and Gentiles too when they became Jews in religion ; but 
that it included others, that conversed not with the nation, 
that were strangers to their laws, is as if we should say the 
Parthians were to be judged by the Gallic laws, or the 
Persians guided by the Greeks. But the purpose of them 
who would introduce this sense is, that it might be inti- 
mated that those degrees, here mentioned, were forbidden 
by the law of nature, and consequently obliging all Christen- 
dom : the contrary whereof because it appears from the pre- 
mises, I shall only add, that no nation of old did observe all 
these laws, and that there was never any sufficient argumen 
to enforce upon us their obligation, and because it must 
needs remain to us as it was before the law, if they were not 
obliged then, neither are we. But this I suppose they might 
be, and some of them were obliged by special laws before 
the collection and publication of the body of Moses's law. 
For as the law of Christ is a collection and perfect explica- 
tion of the law of nature and essential reason, so Moses's law 
was a collection of all the wise and prudent laws, by which 
God governed those nations and those ages which were 
before Moses. Thus the law of the Sabbath was one great 
member of this collective body of the Mosaic law ; but it 
was given before the solemnities of Mount Sinai. The law 
that the brother should raise up seed unto his brother who 
died without issue, was also given to that family before the 


publication of it by Moses, as appears in the story of Judah 
and Tamar's quarrel about Onan and the rest. And thus 
also I suppose, that all or most of these laws of marriage 
were given to the nations of the east and south, descending 
upon them by the tradition of their forefathers ; from God 
derived to Adam in part, and in part to Noah, and some- 
thing of it to other patriarchs and eminent persons, and at 
last by the commandment of God united into a digest by 

And upon this account it is, that God said that * the 
Canaanites had polluted themselves in all these things, and 
therefore the land did spew them out ; ' which although it 
cannot infer, that these laws did naturally oblige, as I have 
already discoursed," yet that they were, by some means or 
other, bound upon them, is probable enough, though in this 
matter there be no certainty. But in this there is ; for that 
all mankind was not bound by all these laws of consanguinity 
and affinity, appears in all the foregoing instances : and the 
marriages of the patriarchs must conclude them to be as 
impious as the Canaanites in theirs, or else that these laws 
did not oblige all mankind : and if not from the beginning, 
then not now : if these laws were not natural, they are not 
Christian, which also will further appear in the sequel. 

2. But there will be more consideration upon the second 
quaere, what is meant by " near of kin to you ? " 

Our English is not sufficiently expressive of the full sense 
of it. The Latin is something nearer to the Hebrew, " Vir 
non accedet ad propinquitatem carnis suae; To the near- 
ness of his flesh," <rgb$ olxefa gagx-os, or as other books, vgbg 
o'r/itfav tagxog, " ad domesticam carnis suae, to her that is 
so near of kin, that they usually dwell in the same house ; " 
that is, parents and children, brothers and sisters, or our 
parents' brothers and sisters. In these cases, there being 
ever the same account of consanguinity and affinity ; this 
rule takes in all that is there forbidden. But it is highly 
observable that there is great difference between * propinqui' 
and * cognati.' God never forbade to marry our kindred, but 
he forbade to marry the nearness of our flesh. Which phrase 
when we rightly understand, this whole question will be 
quickly at an end. 

" Supra, n. 14. 


For { near of kin ' is an indefinite word, and may signify 
as uncertainly as ' great' and ' little' do: nothing of itself 
determinately, but what you will comparatively to others : 
and it maybe extended to all generations of mankind where 
any records are kept, as among the Jews they were : from 
Judah to Joseph, the espoused of the blessed Virgin, from 
Benjamin to Michal, from Levi to Heli : and thus it is in 
great proportion amongst the Spaniards and Welsh, and, in 
all nations, in their greater and more noble families. The 
Welsh do, to this day, esteems him near of kin to them, 
whom the English do not : and since we see the prohibition 
of marriage with kindred hath been extended sometimes, and 
sometimes contracted, it is necessary that all lawgivers do 
express what is meant by the indefinite terms. 

Hemingius gives a rule for this as near as can be drawn 
from the words and the thing, " Propinquitas carnis," saith 
he, " quae me sine intervallo attingit." That is, " she that 
is next to me, none intervening between the stock and me :" 
that is, the propinquity or nearness of my flesh above me is 
my mother, below me is my daughter, on the side is my sister, 
this is all : with this addition, that these are not to be un- 
covered for thy own sake ; thy own immediate relation they 
are : all else which are forbidden, are forbidden for the sakes 
of these : for my mother's or my father's, my son's or my 
daughter's, my brother's or my sister's sake ; only reckon the 
accounts of affinity to be the same : " Affmitates namque cum 
extraneis novas pariunt conjunctiones hominum, non minores 
illis quae e sanguine venerunt :" said Philo;* " Affinity makes 
conjunctions and relations equal to those of consanguinity :" 
and, therefore, thou must not uncover that nakedness, which 
is thine own in another person of blood or affinity, or else is 
thy father's or thy mother's, thy brother's or thy sister's, thy 
son's or thy daughter's nakedness. This is all that can be 
pretended to be forbidden by virtue of these words, " near of 
kin," or "the nearness of thy flesh." 

And this we find expressed y in the case of the high- 
priest's mourning : " The high-priest might not be defiled 
for the dead among his people, but for his kin that is near 
unto him he may ; " that is, for his mother and for his father, 

1 De Leg. Special. 1 Levit. xii. 2. 


and for his son and for his daughter, and for his brother and 
for his virgin-sister. This is the ' propinquitas carnis,' she 
that is immediately born of the same flesh that I am born of, 
or she out of whose flesh I am born, or she that is born out 
of my flesh, this is "near of kin." There is no other pro- 
pinquity but these, all else are removed ; and when a bar 
does intervene, all the rest are or may be accounted ' kin- 
dred,' but * not near of kin,' not the nearness of my flesh, 
which only is here forbidden. 

Only this more : that since the prime natural law does 
forbid the marriage of the ascending and descending line, 
that is, fathers and children, and so consequently, and by a 
stronger reason, grandchildren, and downwards for ever in 
descent ; God was pleased to set a crgop, ' a bar and a 
hedge' round about this to keep men off, far off from it, that 
if men would be impious, they might not, at first, come to 
the highest step : and, therefore, as God placed the prohi- 
bition of brother and sister under, so on the side of it he 
forbade the marriage of uncles and aunts : for they are thy 
father's or thy mother's ' near kin,' they are to them the 
' propinquitas carnis ; ' therefore, for the reverence of father 
and mother the Jews were bidden to keep off one step more ; 
for the last step of lawful is soon passed over into the first 
step of unlawful, and therefore God was pleased to set them 
further off. And the Christian divines and lawyers, well 
understanding this, express the prohibition to this sense ; 
that uncles and aunts are not to be married, because they 
are * loco parentis,' they are ' quasi parentes,' images of 
fathers and mothers, for the reverence of which, the mar- 
riage of our uncles and aunts respectively are forbidden. 
This is just as it was forbidden to the Jews to make an 
image; which thing could not have any moral or natural 
obliquity ; but it was set as a irgopv'kaxr,, ' a guard and a 
hedge' to keep them off from worshipping them. The case 
is the same here : for the Jews were as apt to comply with 
the Egyptians and Canaanites in their incestuous mixtures, 
as in their idolatrous worshippings ; but, therefore, the 
hedges were placed before them both. But half an eye 
may see the different accounts upon which, in this place, 
there was passed an equal prohibition. 

But besides all this, what better determination can we 


have of these Indefinite words of * near of kin,' or ' the 
nearness of thy flesh' (for those are the words in the 
Hebrew, so they are to be rendered), than the express par- 
ticulars made by God himself in that very place ? where 
none are reckoned in the equal collateral line, but brothers 
and sisters, and their 'affines' or 'allies,' their husbands 
and wives respectively ; none in the unequal collateral line, 
but uncles and aunts, and their allies ; in the ascending 
and descending- line, fathers and mothers, their children 
and their grandchildren, with their allies ; in all which there 
is nothing at all that concerns cousins-german, neither upon 
any thing of this account can they be supposed to be for- 
bidden, nor to be 'the nearness of our flesh.' 

But if any scrupulous person shall inquire further, and 
suspect that some degrees of persons are forbidden to marry 
that are not here expressed, but included by a parity of 
reason, as it happens in another instance : for it is not for- 
bidden to marry our mother's brother's wife ; but because 
here it is made unlawful to marry father's brother's wife, 
it is to be concluded also for the other, there being the 
same degree and the same reason : ^ 

I answer to this by parts : 1. It is very likely that it is 
so intended, that in equal cases there is an equal prohi- 
bition ; but it cannot certainly be concluded and relied upon 
that it is so. 1. Because upon this account cases of fear 
and scruple might very much be multiplied to no purpose. 
For I remember, that Fagius reckons, out of the books of 
the rabbins, twenty persons forbidden to marry, which yet 
are not reckoned in Leviticus. 2. Because of the rule of 
the law, z " Quod lege prohibitoria non vetitum est, permis- 
sum intelligitur ; In negative precepts, that which is not 
forbidden is presumed to be allowed." Arid to add more 
out of fear, is either to be wiser than the lawgiver, or to 
suspect him to be apt to quarrel by unknown measures, and 
secret rules of interpretation. 3. Because I find that, 
amongst wise nations, the same degree does not always 
admit the same prohibition. To marry my father's sister 
was forbidden, and it was not forbidden to marry my bro- 
ther's daughter, but it was sometimes practised amongst 

1 L. Mutus 43, D. de procur. 


the Hebrews; and they give this reason for it; because 
young men, daily frequenting the houses of their grand- 
fathers and grandmothers, converse with their aunts, and 
are therefore forbidden to marry, lest such conversation 
should become their snare : but to the houses of their bre- 
thren their address is not so frequent, their conversation 
more separate, and their interest and expectations less, and 
therefore to marry the daughters of their brother might with 
more safety be permitted, because there is less temptation. 
Thus by the laws given to the sons of Noah, the Jews 
observe, that it was permitted to marry the sister by the 
father's side, but not our sister by the mother. It was 
Abraham's case ; for as Saidus Batricides, the patriarch of 
Alexandria, about seven hundred years since, in his ' Eccle- 
siastical Annals,' tells out of the monuments of the East : 
"Terah begat Abraham of his first wife Jona; and, she 
being dead, he married Tehevitha, and of her begat Sarah, 
Abraham's wife : and this is it which he said, ' She is the 
daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother :" 
from whence they suppose this not to be permitted, and 
that the other was ; for so R. Jarchi glosses those words of 
Abraham now quoted : " Quoniam inter gentes ratio consan- 
guinitatis paternse neutiquam habebatur ; Because among 
the Gentiles" (meaning, by the law of nature, or the law 
given to Noah), " there was little or no account made of 
kindred by the father's side in the matter of marriages." So 
amongst the Romans, after the time of Claudius, it was per- 
mitted to marry the brother's daughter, but not the sister's 
daughter, as appears in the rules of Ulpian ; but the reason 
of this particular instance, I confess, I cannot learn ; I only 
observed it to this purpose, that, amongst wise nations, the 
same degree hath not the same prohibition. 

But I am willing enough to admit it with these cautions. 
1. That there be not only the same degree, but the same 
reason : for as Ulpian well observes in his rules : " In quarto 
(gradu) permittitur (conriubium) extra eas personas, quse pa- 
rentum liberorumque locum habent : " therefore, says he, they 
add that the great aunt by the father's and by the mother's 
side, and the sister's niece, may not be married, " quamvis 
quarto gradu sint, although they are in the fourth degree:" 
because the prohibition is not always for the nearness 


or for the degree, but for the proper reason ; and if you 
could suppose a woman to live to see six generations of her 
line, yet it is unlawful for her to marry that sixth degree 
of nephews, and not unlawful to marry the first degree of 

2. In the descending line, the case is otherwise than in 
the equal line. Here the further off the persons are, the less 
reason still there is they should be forbidden : but in the 
descending line, the further the persons are removed, the 
greater cause there is they should be forbidden : therefore, 
there is no comparison between the cognation of uncles and 
their nieces, and the cognation of cousins in the equal lines ; 
because the reason distinguishes them, not the kindred or 
nearness to the common parent. 

3. It is true which is affirmed in the law, " In pari cogna- 
tionis gradu, par idemque jus statuatur; When the cogna- 
tion is the same, the law is so too ;" that is, if it be measured 
in the same kind of cognation : ascending compared to ascend- 
ing, equal collateral to equal collateral, unequal to unequal ; 
for when the comparison is of things in the same order, then 
not only the degree, but the reason is most commonly the 
same too, and that is principally to be regarded. 

But though I am willing enough to admit this rule with 
these cautions, yet many others will not, nor think it reason- 
able that any thing should be supposed to be forbidden in 
the Levitical law, but what is there set down, excepting the 
descent of children, in which it is not easy to prevaricate 
beyond the degrees forbidden expressly, if a man had a mind 
to it : and it was never heard of, that a marriage was thought 
of between a woman and her great-grandfather: and they 
give this reason why they limit themselves to the degrees 
expressed. Because unless God had intended there a perfect 
enumeration of all the persons forbidden to contract mar- 
riages mutually, it cannot be imagined why he should be 
pleased to repeat some degrees twice which are equally for- 
bidden in the several instances : for if the parity of cognation 
were to be the measure, then those degrees, which are twice 
repeated, might, without such repetition, have better been 
reduced to the rule, under which they were sufficiently 

2. But whether it be, or be not so, yet it can no way 


reach to the case of cousins-german : for there is, in Leviti- 
cus, no degree equally near that is forbidden, except of such 
persons which are in the place of parents, who are prohibited 
upon another account. 

But that which ought to put it past all question, that the 
marriage of cousins-german was not prohibited by the Levi- 
tical law, either expressly or by consequence and parity of 
reason, is this : because it was practised by holy men, both 
before and after the law, and so ordered to be done by God 
himself. In the law there are no words against it, no reason 
against it expressed or intimated in a parity of prohibition 
given to something else; and it was frequently practised 
amongst persons of a known religion, and was, by God, 
given in command to some persons to do it ; therefore, 
nothing is more certainly warranted, excepting only express 

The particulars I relate to in Scripture* are these : Jacob 
married his cousin-german Rachel, the daughter of his uncle 
Laban. Amram, the father of Moses, begat him of his 
cousin-german Jochabed. That she was his aunt is com- 
monly supposed ; but the LXX. and the vulgar Latin report 
her to be his aunt's daughter, though by the style of the 
Hebrews, she was called his aunt : just as Hanameel is 
called in some books the uncle of the prophet Jeremy, b when 
he was really his uncle's son ; and so the vulgar Latin Bibles 
read it; and Lot was called ' brother' by Abraham, when he 
was his brother's son. Caleb having promised his daughter 
Achsah to him that should take Kirjath Sepher, she fell to 
Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother; so Pagnine and 
Arias Montanus read it, " filio Kenaz, fratris Caleb," mean- 
ing Kenaz to be Caleb's brother : so that Othniel and Achsah 
were brothers' children ; for it cannot be supposed that Oth- 
niel was Caleb's brother, and so was uncle to Achsah ; for 
that being forbidden in the law of Moses, under which 
Othniel and Achsah lived, was not a thing so likely to be 
done, and consented to by Caleb, as I have already note'd. 

But the matter was made more notorious in the case of 
Zelophehad's daughters; 11 who, because they were heiresses, 

Exod. vi. 20. b Jer. xxxii. 12. 

c N. 33. N. 36. 


were commanded to marry their kindred ; and they married 
their father's brother's sons. This was a special case ; but 
therefore it was a special command ; and what was, in all 
cases, lawful, was made, in this case, necessary. For if the 
woman was an heiress, she was to pleasure her own family 
rather than strangers. And this was not only amongst the 
Jews, but amongst the Greeks and Latins, as appears by that 
of the comedy, 6 

Lex est ut ' orbze, qui sint genere proxumi, 

lis nubant ;' et ' illos ducere ' eadem hsec lex jubet. 

If the woman was without children (add also), and without 
a father, that is, if her father be dead, the next of kindred 
was bound to marry her : and, therefore, when ^Eschyl us f calls 
the marriage of certain cousins-german Xsjcrga uv SJ 
"marriages which the law forbids," and affirms 
yivos, " the family is stained by it ; " the scholiast adds, that 
therefore ' these marriages are unlawful, because the fathers 
were alive ; ' and so it was not unlawful upon the stock of 
kindred ; but because the maid was J^/xX^o/r/s, an "heiress," 
and might not marry without her father's leave. This woman 
was called among the Greeks iKidix.afyfAsvri, " a woman deter- 
mined by law," and already judged to such a marriage ; 
crar^otrj/oj, and ivixXrioo$, or j-T/jcXjjo/r/g, and to them that were 
so it was not free to marry any one ; they must marry their 
kindred ; 

Hie meus amicus illi genere est proxumus 
Huic leges cogunt nubere hanc .s 

And we find, in the old civil law, that one Cassia was de- 
clared inheritrix upon condition, " Si consobrino nupsisset; h 
if she did marry her cousin-german ; " and Papinian ' affirms, 
" conditionem illam, si consobrinam duxeris, haereditatis 
institution! utiliter adjici posse;" it is a legal and a fair 
condition, and may be the limit of an inheritance, that the 
heiress be bound to marry her cousin-german. And this in 
some measure was the case of Ruth, k whom Boaz, great- 

Terent. Phorm. act. i. sc. 2. 75. Bipont. p. 143. 

f 38. Butler, vol. ii. p. 6. s Adelphi. iv. 5, 17. 

h Lib. ii. C. de Instil, et Subst. 

1 Lib. xxiii. et xxiv. D. de Ritu Nuptiarum. k Ruth, iii. 12. 


grandfather to King David, did marry by the right of a 
kinsman. " Now it is true," saith he, " that I am thy near 
kinsman, howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I ;" which 
kinsman, because he refused to marry Ruth, Boaz took her 
to wife, and she became a mother in the line of the Messias ; 
for Christ came out of her loins according to the flesh. 

Into which line, because this argument hath led me, I 
offer it to consideration as the last and greatest example of 
the lawfulness and holiness of such marriages under the law 
of Moses, and as a warranty to all ages of the Christians ; 
the blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our most blessed 
Saviour, was married to her cousin-gennan, as was supposed 
upon this reason : for her husband Joseph was the son of 
Heli, saith St. Luke ; ' that is, the legal son of Heli ; for 
Jacob begat him, saith St. Matthew. Now Heli and Jacob 
were brethren, the sons of Matthat, who was grandfather to 
Joseph and Mary ; for unless, by the cognation of Joseph 
and Mary, the same genealogy had served for them both, 
the reckoning of the genealogy of Joseph could not have 
proved Jesus to have descended from David. But if this 
instance should fail, and that their consanguinity (for they 
were cousins) did stand at further distances ; yet there are 
examples, and reasons, and authentic precedents, already 
reckoned, enow to warrant us in this inquiry. 

By all which it appears, what was the state of these 
marriages under the law of Moses ; and yet all the scruple, 
at which weak persons start or stumble, is derived from that 
sanction in Leviticus ; which, in despite of all reason, and all 
precedents, and all observations whatsoever, they will needs 
suppose to be a natural and moral law, so making eleven 
commandments : for certain it is, that the ten commandments 
was to the Jews the sum of their moral law : in which, since 
some things that were ceremonial were inserted, it is not 
likely that any thing that was moral should be omitted. 
In the ten words of Moses, there was nothing less than their 
whole moral law, though something more there was : but 
this of forbidding cousins to marry was nowhere put. If it 
had been put in Leviticus, it was but national and temporary ; 
for I have proved it was not against the law of nature, which 

1 Luke, iii. 23. 


permitted nearer relatives than cousins-german to marry. I 
have also proved that the sanction of Moses did only oblige 
Jews and proselytes: that if they had obliged all, yet cousins- 
german are not there expressly forbidden, and if they be not 
there expressly forbidden, they are not forbidden at all ; but 
in case that other degrees of equal distance and reason were 
there forbidden, though not expressed, yet this of cousins 
german is not, by any consequence or intimation of that, 
forbidden, because no degree is there forbidden which can 
involve this, but it hath a special case of its own, in which 
this is not at all concerned ; and all this I strengthened with 
examples greater than all exception. 

It remains now that we descend to the Christian law, and 
inquire, whetherour great Master and Lawgiver, Jesus Christ, 
hath forbidden cousins-german to marry ? But this is soon 
at an end ; for Christ spake nothing at all concerning mar- 
riage but one sentence which reduced it to the first state of 
nature, save only that he left us, in all things, bound by the 
laws of nations and our just superiors, of which two last I 
shall give account in the following periods. But of that 
which Christ said, the sum is this only : " For this cause 
shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, 
and they two shall be one flesh." By which words he did 
establish all that was natural and moral in this affair. " A 
man shall leave father and mother :" by these words are 
forbidden the marriage of parents and children. " He shall 
cleave to his wife :" by this is forbidden ' concubitus mas- 
culorum.' " His wife:" by this is forbidden adultery or 
the lying with another man's wife, and extra-nuptial pollu- 
tions. " Erunt duo, they two:" by that is forbidden 
' Plyg am y-' " I* 1 carnem unam, shall be one flesh:" 
by this is forbidden bestiality, or the abuse of ' caro aliena,' 
the flesh of several species : which are all the unlawful and 
unnatural lusts forbidden by God in the law of nature, and 
that which was afterwards given to all mankind, and inserted 
in the Levitical law as the consummation and main design of 
the other prohibitions, which were but like hedges and outer 
guards to these. 

There is in the New Testament only one law more which 
can relate to this question of marriages : " Provide things 
honest in the sight of all men :" and " Follow after things 


which are of good report ;" that is, whatsoever is against 
public honesty, the law of nations, the common sense of 
mankind, that is not to be done by Christians, though of the 
instance there be no special prohibition in the laws of Jesus 
Christ ; and Modestinus the lawyer said well, " In uuptiis 
non solum quod liceat, sed etiam quod honestum sit, semper 
est respiciendum." Concerning which, lest there be a mistake 
in it, I premise this caution in general, that we do not take 
false or weak estimates of public fame and honesty. Nothing 
but the laws of God and men, or the universal sentence of 
that part of mankind with whom we anyways converse, is 
the measure of public honesty. Thus for a bishop to ride a 
hunting in his pontificals, or fora priest to keep an alehouse, 
is against public honesty : of the same nature are, for a 
woman to paint her face, or to go in man's apparel. But 
when a thing is disputed on both sides by good and learned 
men, to do either is not against public honesty : that is a 
certain rule ; for when a thing is called good and honest by 
wise and good men, the question is divided, and therefore 
cannot be united against either of them. Upon this account 
St. Paul reproved the incestuous Corinthian, because he had 
done a fact which was not so much as named, that is, 
approved, amongst the Gentiles, that " one should have his 
father's wife." Caracalla indeed did it afterwards ; and it 
was, before his time, done in the family of Seleucus ; but 
these were insolent examples ever disallowed by the Romans 
and all the nations within their circuit : and consequently the 
Greeks had, long before St. Paul's time, been more restrained 
in their too great licentiousness of marriages. And when the 
custom of this thing had procured a license for it amongst 
the Scots, St. Margaret, wife to Malcolm III. their king, did 
reduce the contrary law of nations, and forbade a son to marry 
his father's wife, or a brother to marry his brother's widow. 

Beyond this the New Testament having nothing, if we 
reduce this to the present question, we must consider whether 
the marriage of cousins-german be against public honesty or 
good report, that is, whether it be condemned by the law of 
nations and the prevailing sentences or practice of wise men. 

Concerning this, I find that Plutarch, speaking of the 
ancient laws and usages of the Romans in marrying their 
kindred, says, It was a practice before it was a law: and 


there happened to be a case of a good man who had a great 
advantage by marrying his cousin-german : upon occasion 
of which the people made a law that it should be permitted 
to any one to do i, t-^rjcpiffa,{j,ii/o<; <raaiv s^sTvai ya^E/V a%f/ ai/s-v^/wi/, 
ra ds avuregu xexuXvt&ai. Now this was very ancient ; and 
before this law for it, 1 find no law against it; only, Claudius 
in Tacitus said true, they were ' diu ignorata,' no notice of 
them, or but seldom examples. Concerning which discourse, 
though men are pleased to talk as serves their turns, yet it is 
very certain that the elder the times were, the more liberty 
there was of marrying their kindred. However, there was an 
early law for it, and none against it, that I find ; and when it 
began to be considered, " tempore addito percrebuerunt," 
said Tacitus," 1 " they in time grew frequent." In the oration 
of Sp. Ligustinus," in Livy, there is this clause, " Pater mihi 
uxorem fratris sui filiam dedit; My father gave me to 
wife his own brother's daughter :" and Quintilian, mourn- 
ing for the immature death of his son, affirms that ' he was 
designed to be son-in-law to his uncle.' So Cicero says 
that his sister married Mellinus, his cousin-german : and 
Augustus Ceesar gave his daughter Julia to Marcellus, the 
son of his sister Octavia. The brave Brutus, who was the 
example of a rare moral man and a noble patriot, was married 
to Portia, the daughter of his wife's uncle, Cato ; and that 
incomparable prince, Marcus Antoninus, the philosopher and 
emperor, was married to his nearest cousin, Annia Faustina ; 
she was his cousin-german. But thus it was at the begin- 
ning ; and thus it was at the ending of the Roman state and 
empire. At the beginning ; the two daughters of Servius 
Tullius were married to their cousins-german, Lucius and 
Aruns, the nephews of Priscus Tarquinius. Livy p indeed 
says, it was not certain whether these young gentlemen were 
uncles or cousins-german to their wives ; that is, whether 
they were sons or nephews to Tarquinius Priscus; but 
Dionysius Halicarnasseus contends earnestly that they were 
nephews. Toward the declination of the Roman period and 
state, we find that Constantius, the emperor, gave his sister 
to her cousin Julianus. 

m Annal. xii. c. 6. Ruperti, p. 293. 

n Lib. ii. c. 34. Ruperti, vol. iv. p. 79. 

Pro Cluentio, c. 5. Wetzel, p. 49. P Lib. i. c. 46. 


These, and all the foregoing examples of the wisest, of 
the best, of the most holy persons, patriarchs and kings, 
consuls and philosophers, lawgivers and saints ; the practice 
and customs of the greatest and most civil nations, are 
infinitely sufficient to dash in pieces this weak pretence 
(if any should make use of it), that the marriage of cousins- 
german is against public honesty, and so consequently not 
of good report : for that which God never forbade, but some- 
times did actually command, which the patriarchs did prac- 
tise, which the Church of the Jews never scrupled at, but 
always were accustomed to it, which wise men and good 
men have done without reproof, which was admitted by the 
law of nations, and is nowhere contradicted in Scripture, 
which records many authentic precedents of such marriages, 
in all reason ought to be of good report. And certainly 
nothing hath done dishonour and so lessened the fame and 
good opinion of such marriages, as the very making a ques- 
tion concerning its lawfulness, and making a scruple even 
after the question is well determined. To be suspected, 
lessens the fame of any manor any thing. The doing justice 
to this article will do it reputation enough. 

If we now shall inquire how the civil law of the Romans 
did determine of these marriages, we shall be helped much 
in the cure of the former fear. For if the law of the Romans 
allowed it, that law which had so many brave and wise com- 
posers, and which so many nations allowed of and practised, 
and still do in very many kingdoms and republics, we have 
no reason to think it can be of ill report. But concerning 
this the matter is not very disputable, it is notorious that 
the civil law did allow it. q Paulus the lawyer said; 1 " " Si 
nepotem ex filio et neptem ex altero filio in potestate habeam, 
nuptias inter eos me solo autore contrahi posse Pomponius 
scribit, et verum est :" and Antoninus the emperor said, 
*' Non videri potest sub specie turpium nuptiarum viduitatem 
tibi induxisse, cum te filio sororis suae consobrino tuo, proba- 
bili consilio, matrimonio jungere voluerit :" I need in this say 
no more. It was always permitted in the Greek and Roman 

i Lib. i. sect, duorum inst. de nupt. lib. iii. et lib. non solum. sect. i. D. de 
ritu nup. lib. C. de instit. et subst. 

r Lib. si Nepot. iii. D. de rit. nupt. Lib. condition!, ii. C. de institut. 
et subst. 


laws, till the time of Theodosius, who being overruled by 
St. Ambrose, forbade it by an express law ; " tantum pudori 
tribuens continentise, ut consobrinorurn nuptias vetuerit tan- 
quam sororum," said Aurelius Victor; he thought it more 
nice and modest if he should enlarge the laws, and restrain 
what was not restrained before : but in this as it arose sud- 
denly, so as suddenly it was extinguished ; for it was abrogated 
by Arcadius and Honorius's sons, whose constitution to this 
purpose is in Justinian, 5 in which these words are remarkable, 
" Revocata prisci juris autoritate, restinctisque calumniarum 
fomentis, matrimonium inter consobrinos habeatur ; The 
law that forbade them was occasioned and fomented by ca- 
lumnies ; which being dispersed, the authority of the ancient 
laws was recalled." 

This I am to admonish ; that in the Theodosian Code the 
law of these emperors seems to say otherwise, as is to be 
seen under the title of ' Si Nuptiae ex Rescript. Petant : et de 
Incestis Nuptiis.' But the forgery is notorious enough. For 
when Alaric, king of the Goths, had commanded his subject 
Arrianus the lawyer to make a breviary of the code, he fitted 
those laws to the customs of his own country, and so abused 
the laws of Arcadius and Honorius, as appears plainly by 
comparing those constitutions which passed under the fingers 
of Arrianus, with those which under the same rubrics are in the 
code of Justinian. For in this there is not one word spoken 
of the marriage of cousins-german under those titles. And 
as he hath done in the breviary of the Theodosian Code, so 
hath he done in the epitome of Caius's institutions (he, or 
some such fellow as bad), and made the civil law as he pleased 
expressly against the known sanction of all the old law of 
the braver Romans. The same also was done by Theophilus, 
<who recited this law according to the manners of his own 
time, and recites the law of Justinian exactly contrary to 
Justinian's sense by clapping a perfect negative to his direct 
affirmative. But Curtius, the Latin interpreter of Theophilus, 
hath set it right again according to the true intent of the 
civil law. But, it may be, I do not well to trouble the ques- 
tion with these little things, when the great lines of duty are 
so plain and legible : and concerning this we have a full 

lib. celebraidis C. de Xuptii*. 


testimony from St. Austin ;' who having observed that in his 
time cousins-german did not often marry : " Experti sumus 
(says he) in conjugiis consobrinorum etiam nostris tempo- 
ribus .... quam raro per mores fiebat, quod fieri per leges 
licebat, quia id nee Divina prohibuit, et nondum prohibuerat 
lex humana." That is, c for cousins-german to marry was 
neither prohibited by the laws of God nor man : ' and so we 
have a testimony beyond exception concerning the civil law, 
and the law of God, and the law of the Church, till his time. 
St. Ambrose and Theodosius, a little before that time, had 
caused some restraint and made the matter uneasy : and be- 
sides this, if any man could observe concerning any one 
sort of persons how seldom they marry, that is, how few 
examples any one man can observe of any degree, though 
never so distant, this will appear but light, as the dew upon 
a flower, or the down of a thistle. It is lawful for a father 
and his son to marry a widow and her daughter ; and for 
two brothers to marry two sisters ; and no man questions 
any thing of it ; but " quam raro hoc per mores fiat ;" how 
many examples can any one man reckon? Can he tell so 
many in one age and of his own notice, as to make them up 
a multitude ? and yet this would be but a weak argument 
against it ; and not worth a further consideration. 

That which is to be inquired next into, is the canon law ; 
and that indeed does forbid it : but how, and to what pur- 
pose, and with what obligation, will not be wholly useless to 

1 . In the very first canons of the Church (excepting only 
that one framed in the Council of Jerusalem") which are 
commonly called the Canons of the Apostles, there is a 
caution against incestuous marriages, but the instances are 
only, " He that marries two sisters, or his brother's wido\v 
or daughter;" the penalty is, "He may not be received 
into holy orders ; " but for the matter of cousins-german, it 
was not forbidden until St. Austin's time ; and thereabouts, 
it was true, that " Nondum prohibuerat lex humana, Divina 
nunquam ; God's law had never, and till then man's law 
had not, forbidden it ; " that is, it was then in all senses 
lawful : and in the synod of Paris, almost six hundred years 

Lib. XT. c. 16, d CiTit. Dei. " Acts, xv. 


after Christ, those are defined to be unlawful marriages, 
" quse contra praeceptum Domini contrahuntur, which are 
against the Divine law ; " none else ; amongst which the 
present case is not to be suspected : and in the old canons 
of the Church, all the prohibited instances were comprised in 
these verses, which was their authentic table : 

Nata, soror, neptis, matertera, fratris et uxor, 
Et patris conjux, mater, privigna, uoverca, 
Uxorisque soror, privigni nata, nurusque, 
Atque soror patris, conjungi lege vetantur.* 

But in some assemblies of the bishops, about this time, a 
little before or a little after, the manners of the nations being 
spoiled with wars, rudeness, and barbarism, they contracted 
incestuous marriages : and it was, therefore, thought fit that 
as the marriages of uncles and nieces were forbidden, as a 
hedge to keep them further off from father and mother, son 
or daughter, so this ofcousins-german was set as a -rgopuXaxj}, 
or an ' outward court,' to keep them from marrying brother 
and sister. And therefore Harmenopulus says, they were 
forbidden by the laws of the Greeks. And it was amongst 
them no more than was highly needful, for a reason which 
every one knows. But both there, and in the Latin Church, 
when the prohibition of cousins' marriage is joined in the 
same degree with the marrying of sisters, the cause is 
rendered too suspicious. And yet there was an external 
cause, that had influence upon these sanctions of the Church. 
The Goths then prevailed by the sword, and the Church, to 
comply with the conqueror, was forward to receive this law 
from them : for the Goths had it before the Romans, and it 
is very probable that those barbarous people were the great 
precedents and introducers of the prohibition. 

2. These laws were made by time and accidents, and were 
extended or contracted as it pleased the popes of Rome, who 
(as one observes), were, for a long time, " iniquiores et invidi 
in maritos," apt and easy to make all restraints upon mar- 
riages. If it were seasonable and fit, it were not useless to 
observe many instances out of the canon law to this purpose. 
But I forbear ; that which I now observe, is, that the prohi- 
bition amongst them began with cousins-german ; then it 

* C. 1. Extr. de Restit. Sponsal. 


went to the third and fourth degrees ; then to seven ; then 
to four again ; sometime to six, as in the synod at Cabaillon : 
sometimes " usque dura generatio agnoscitur, aut memoria 
retinetur, as long as any memory of kindred remains;" 
and that will be very far in Wales, where they reckon eight 
degrees and special names of kindred after cousins-german, 
and then kin for ever: and truly these canonists y proceed 
as reasonably as their principles would admit. For if cog- 
nation or consanguinity was the hinderance of marriage, 
wherever they could reckon that, they had some pretence to 
forbid marriage : but if they only forbade it upon the accounts 
of nature, or by the precedent of the Divine law given to 
Moses, they were to stop there where nature stopped, or 
the Divine law. But that they would not, as knowing it to 
be an easy thing to make laws at the charge of other men's 

3. The reasons why the projectors of the canon law did 
forbid to the fourth or to the seventh degree, were as fit a 
cover for this dish as could be imagined. They that were 
for four, gave this grave reason for it : ' There are four hu- 
mours in the body of a man, to which, besides the four degrees 
of consanguinity do~ answer, it is proportionable to nature to 
forbid the marriage of cousins to the fourth degree.' Nay 
more ; ' there are four elements ; ' ergo, to which it may be 
added, that there are upon a man's hand four fingers and a 
thumb. The thumb is the ' stirps,' or common parent ; and 
to the end of the four fingers, that is the four generations of 
kindred, we ought not to marry, because " the life of man is 
but a span long:" There are also four quarters of the world ; 
and indeed so there are of every thing in it, if we please, 
and therefore abstain at least till the fourth degree be past. 
Others,who are graver and wiser (particularly Bonaventure), 
observe cunningly, that ' besides the four humours of the 
body, there are three faculties of the soul, which beingjoined 
together, make seven, and they point out to us that men are 
to abstain till the seventh generation.' These reasons, such 
as they are, they therefore were content withal, because they 
had no better : yet upon the strength of these they were bold, 
even against the sense of almost all mankind, to forbid these 
degrees to marry. 

i Concil. Tolet. 2, c. 5. Concil. Worm. 


4. When the canonists appointed what degrees of kindred 
they would have restrained from mutual marriage, they took 
their precedent and measure from the civil law, making this 
their standard, that so long as by the civil law inheritances 
did descend, so long by the canon law it should not be 
permitted to kindred to marry : and upon this account they 
forbade marriage to the seventh degree, because so far the 
laws appointed inheritances to descend. Now that this is 
a weak and a false ground, appears, because inheritances 
descend even to the tenth degree : and yet suppose it other- 
wise, yet the popes and other compilers of the canons over- 
shoot their mark extremely : because, while they, forbidding 
marriages to the seventh degree, pretended to follow some 
proportions and usages of the civil law, do yet reckon the 
degrees otherwise than the civil law does, and consequently 
do forbid marriage to the fifteenth civil degree exclusively. 
For whereas by the canon law so far as either of the persons 
is distant from the common parent, so far is he distant from 
the other in the equal line ; so that, by this computation, 
cousins-german are distant in the second degree, and no 
more ; by the civil law there are accounted so many degrees 
as there are persons besides the common parent, so that, in" 
this computation, cousins-german are distant in the fourth 
degree ; and consequently, the seventh canonical degree is 
the fourteenth civil degree, the unequalness and unreason- 
ableness of which all lawyers will deride. The same is, in 
proportion, to be said of their later reduction of the canonical 
prohibition to the fourth degree inclusively. 

5. These laws, gathered by the Roman canonists, are not 
now, nor ever were they, obligatory but by the consent of 
the people, and the allowances of princes. For bishops, in 
their mere spiritual inpresses, have no proper legislative 
power, where princes are Christian : and, if the prince please, 
he may enlarge or restrain their power, so that he make no 
intrenchment on the Divine law, and do what is useful and 
profitable. ' Fac legi tuee sepem,' said the Jews ; * it makes 
the law firm if you put a hedge about it ; ' and where viler 
people, who had no fear of God, were apt to marry sisters 
or aunts, it was not ill to prohibit something that was lawful, 
lest they should run into what is unlawful. But this is 
matter of prudence only, and ought to be separated from the 


question of lawful or unlawful. But then when the prince 
does not bind, the subjects are free. " Honesta et justa 
esse quae regi placent, et regno utilia ; Those things which 
please the king and are profitable to the kingdom, are honest 
and just." It was truly said, but ill applied, by Antiochus 

6. These laws are neither allowed by the prince, nor by the 
ecclesiastical state in England ; and because they were useless 
and burdensome, they were laid aside ; for they were but 
drains for money and levies of rents ; for, even under the 
pope, the way was, and is now, open enough to cousins- 
german, if they have gold enough to purchase the lead. 
And so it was, when the civil law was tuned to the air of the 
canon law, and both to the manners of the Goths. Cousins 
might marry with a dispensation from the prince ; a form of 
which is to be seen in Cassiodore. z But this is one of the 
many blessings of the protestant religion, that we are not 
tied to pay money for leave to do a lawful action ; so that as 
the Jews were wont to say, ' He that hath married a wife 
that is too near of kindred, let him turn proselyte, and then 

.she is not of kin to him,' I may in some sense use in the 
contest between our laws and those of the Roman Churches : 
' he that hath, or desires to marry, a wife of his kindred 
which is not too near by God's law, but is by the pope's law, 
let him become a protestant, and then though nothing can 
be allowed to him which God hath forbidden, yet that leave 
which God hath given him, man shall not take away.' 

7. If it were at all considerable what is done by the canon 
law, there is a new device brought in of spiritual kindred ; 
and marriages forbidden to be between such as answer at 
the font for the same child ; that is, if we value the Roman 
canons, all mankind are in perpetual snare, and that to no 

8. But as for the present inquiry, it is considerable that 
the canon law itself does not pretend it to be against the 
Divine law, but does it wholly upon other accounts, as I 
have already instanced ; and this appears in the epistle of 
Rabanus to Cardinal Humbert : " Quod pontifices usque ad 
sextuin vel septimum gradum conjugium prohibent, magis ex 

*Lib. vii. variatum. 


consuetudine humana quam ex lege Divina eos praecepisse 
credendum." The canons did not intend to signify it to be 
against the law of God for cousins to marry in the degrees 
forbidden by the canon law. 

9. And, after all, the laws of England do expressly allow 
it ; as is to be seen in the tables of marriage set up in 
churches usually, and in the statute of 32d of Henry VIII. 
chap. 38. And it is observable, that, in England, they were 
allowed to do it ever since they were Christians, unless they 
were papists. For till Pope Gregory's time, and Austin 
the monk (though Christianity had been here almost five 
hundred years before), it was used by the Britons : and 
Pope Gregory did not think it fit, that Austin should put a 
restraint upon them (as is to be seen in the British Councils 
collected by that learned and good man, Sir Henry Spelman) ; 
but it was no little interest and power, which the popes 
afterwards procured in the families of princes and other great 
personages, by giving leave to them to marry their near 
relatives ; and their posterity, for their own sakes, would, in 
all likelihood, preserve that power, to which (as things then 
went) they did owe their legitimation. 

Although I have passed through all laws that can oblige 
us, in this present inquiry, yet because the chief disquisi- 
tion is concerning the natural law, and whether or no any 
prohibition can from thence descend upon the marriage of 
cousins-germans, is the main question ; it will be proper here 
to add one topic more, that is, the prudence or reasonableness 
of the thing. 

Concerning which it is observable, that whosoever shall 
go about to assign the proper reasons why certain degrees 
are forbidden to marry by the law of God, will, by experience, 
find it to be too hard for his head : and Rabbi Menahen 
Racanatensis observed, " Quod ad rationem attinet inter- 
dictorum incesti, magistri traditionum de ea nihil certi 
acceperunt; The masters of traditions have received no 
certain account of those reasons, for which God forbade 
incestuous mixtures." Indeed, if we could find out the 
prime and proper reasons, then, by proportions to it, we 
could better understand how far the prohibitions were to be 
extended. But this is to be despaired of. But yet men 


have ventured to give such reasons as they could, which 
how far they are applicable to the present question, shall be 

1. That kindred ought not to marry is therefore decreed, 
" ne aemulatiofiat in eadem domo/'says one. The same degree 
of kindred will be apt to love the same man, and so emulation 
will arise. Well, suppose that : but if it does, the marrying 
one of them will determine all the rest, and quiet the strife. 
But because this proves too much, it proves nothing at all. 
For upon the same account, a young man should not marry 
in a family where there are many daughters, " ne semulatio 
fiat in eadem domo ; to avoid emulation and competition." 

2. Cousins would do better not to marry, says another,* 
" ne habeat duas necessitudines una persona ; that one 
person may not be a double relative :" for so names will be 
confounded, and the same person shall be father and cousin 
to his own child. But what if he be ? and what if a king be 
both a lord over, and a son under, his own mother? What 
if a man be a father and a judge, a brother-in-law and a 
natural brother, as when two brothers marry two sisters? 
The more relations and necessitudes there are, it is so much 
the better, and a twofold cord is not easily broken. 

3. It were well that cousins might not marry, that by 
their kindred they might be defended from the injury of their 
husbands, in case they should need it. Well, suppose this 
too : yet, 1 . This does not at all concern the man ; for he will 
not need a defence by his kindred against his wife. 2. For 
the woman, unless she marries all her kindred, the other may 
be a defence against the violence of one whom she does 
marry ; and will be more likely to prevail in the defence 
against a kinsman, than against a stranger. 3. But if a 
woman be brought to that pass, her cousin shall do her little 
advantage against her husband ; for such defences do but 
exasperate and make eternal animosities : but the laws are 
the best defences. 4. If the cousin will be a sure defence 
against the husband's injury, then if the cousin be married 
to her, he will be sure to do her no injury. For he that will 
do evil himself, is but an ill security to be engaged against 

Cicero de Fin. 


another ; and lie that will prevaricate in the duty of a hus- 
band, will hardly secure the peace of the woman by the duty 
of a kinsman. 

4. St. Austin's scruple is this : " Inest nescio quomodo 
humanse verecundiae quiddam naturale ac laudabile, ut cui 
debet causa propinquitatis verecundum honorem ab ea con- 
tineat quamvis generatricem tainen libidinem ; There is, 
in the modesty of mankind, something that is natural and 
laudable ; by which they abstain from congression with 
them to whom they owe the honour of reverence and modest 
bashfulness." This, indeed, is a good account, where the 
modesty of nature does really make restraints and owes 
duty and reverence : and, therefore, is one of the most proper 
and natural reasons against the marriage of parents and 
children, and is, by the allowance of some proportions, 
extended to brother and sister : but if it be sent out one step 
further, you can never stop it more, but it shall go as far as 
any man please to fancy : therefore let it stop where God 
and nature hath fixed its first bounds ; and let not the pre- 
tence of a natural reason or instinct carry us whither nature 
never did intend ; for it is certain she gave larger commis- 
sions, however the fears, or the scruples, or the interest of 
some men have made them to speak otherwise : and I 
remember, concerning Cicero, who sometimes speaks against 
the marriage of cousins, that it is but too reasonable to sup- 
pose he did it to remove suspicion from himself; it having 
been objected against him, by Q. Fusius Calenus, in Dio, b 
that he was too kind and amorous to his own daughter : 
" Filia matris pellex tibi jucundior atque obsequentior quam 
parenti par est ;" so unequal, so uncertain a way it is to trust 
the sayings of a man, when so frequently the man's opinion 
is not caused by his reason, but by a secret interest. 

5. Pope Gregory, in his epistle to the Archbishop of 
Canterbury, tries another away : " Experimento didicimus ex 
tali conjugio sobolem non posse succrescere ; If cousins- 
german marry, they will have no] children." But the good 
man did not remember, that the whole nation of the Jews 
came from the marriage of the two cousins-german of Jacob, 
Rachel and Leah : and although, by this discourse, it seems 

* Lib. xlri. 


it was a usual practice to do it ; for from the practice only, 
he could pretend to an observation of this event ; yet as to 
the "event of the thing itself, it is a very great experience 
which the world hath, by which his observation is confuted. 

6. But the best reason given against the convenience of 
it, for none pretends higher, is, that it were better if cousins- 
german should not intermarry " propter multiplicandas 
affinitates," as St. Austin expresses it, " utconjugiis augeant 
necessitudines ; That so they might scatter friendships and 
relations in more families for the dissemination and extension 
of charity." For cousins being already united and loving, 
it were well by marriage to endear others which are not so 
loving, not so united. Of this every one makes use that is 
pleased to dissuade these marriages. But to this I answer, 
1. That suppose this were well, and without objection as to 
the material part, yet this does noways prove it unlawful, 
and indeed is not, by the contrivers of it, intended it should : 
as appears in Philo and Plutarch, from whom St. Chry- 
sostom and St. Austin did borrow it. 2. There may be one 
inconvenience in it, and yet many conveniences and advan- 
tages, which may outweigh that one; and that there are 
so, will appear in the sequel. 3. This very reason, when 
Philo, the Jew, had urged in general, for the scattering 
friendships, and not limiting alliances to one family, he adds, 
" Quod respiciens Moyses alias etiam multas propinquorum 
nuptias vetuit :" meaning, that this argument is sufficiently 
provided for by the restraints that Moses made, and if we 
marry out of those limits, the friendship is enough scattered. 
For beyond brother and sister, uncles and nieces, the relation 
is far enough off to be receptive of, and to need the renova- 
tion or the arrests of friendship. 

7. It were well if cousins-german did not marry, lest, by 
reason of their usual familiarity, converse, and natural kind- 
ness, fornications should be secretly procured ; it being too 
ready for natural love to degenerate into lust. I answer, 
that therefore let them marry as the remedy. For it were a 
hard thing that cousins, who do converse and are apt to 
love, should, by men, be forbidden to marry, when by God 
they are not. For this aptness to love being left upon them, 
together with their frequent conversation, is a snare ; which 
because God knew, he permitted them to their remedy ; and 


if men do not, they will find that their prohibition of mar- 
riage will not be sufficient security against fornication. For 
brothers and sisters, where the danger is still greater, God 
hath put a bar of positive law, and nature hath put the bar of 
a natural reason and congruity, and the laws of all mankind 
have put a bar of public honesty and penalties, and all these 
are sufficient to secure them against the temptation ; and this 
was observed by a wise man c long since in this very 
instance : aur/xa 01*% J|a a8i\cpb$ ad&ffi;, aXXog bs raurjjj* ovde 
Ka.7^o Suyar^, aXXoj ds rccvrqg ' "The father is not in love with 
the daughter ; nor a brother with his sister :" the reason is, xa/ 
yaa <p6(3o$ xa/ i/o.aog 'mavbg seura, xuXvsiv, " fear and the laws are 
restraint enough for this love :" but because to cousins this 
bar is not set, the greater propensity they have to love, the 
more need there is they should be permitted to marry. And 
this very thing was observed by Rabanus, in his epistle to 
Humbert. " Hujusmodi prohibitiones adulterii occasionem 
praebere ; Such laws of restraint are occasions of adultery ;" 
and, therefore, he infers from thence, " Bonum esse ut, 
prsetermissis illis prohibitionibus, legis Divinse servetur con- 
stitutio." It were good, if standing in the measures of the 
Divine law, we should lay a snare for no man's foot by 
putting fetters upon his liberty, without just cause, but not 
without great danger. 

I know of no more reasons pretended against this affair ; 
I think these are all ; and, I am sure, they are the most con- 
siderable. But then on the other side, although it were hard 
to require any more reason for the marriage of cousins- 
german, than we do for any other marriage, that is, that 
we love the person, that she be virtuous and fitted for 
our condition, yet I say, * ex abundanti,' that there are 
conveniences and advantages which are not contemptible, 
nor yet are so readily to be found in the marriage of other 

1. There is the advantage of a great and most perfect 
parity of condition, that is regularly to be expected. There 
is no upbraiding of kindred, greatness or weakness of fortune 
occasioned by the difference of elder or younger brothers 

Xenoph. Cyrop. lib. v. c. 1. sect. 10. Schneider, p. 314. 


(for this being in all families, is not a reproach to any) ; 
and here is the greatest probability of a similitude of 
passions, humours, and affections ; and they that have 
experience in economical affairs, know that these things 
are not contemptible. 

2. It is observable, that, when God intended to bless a 
family and a nation, there he permitted, and, in some cases, 
commanded, the marriage of cousins-german, as in the 
families of Israel. And although it was lawful for one tribe 
to marry into another, as appears in David, who married 
Michal, Saul's daughter, of the tribe of Benjamin ; and the 
Benjamitish families were restored by the intermarriages of 
the other tribes, after that sad war about the Levite's con- 
cubine ; and Hillel, the pharisee, was of the tribe of Ben- 
jamin by his father, and of Judah by his mother ; yet this 
was done so seldom, that it was almost thought not lawful ; 
but the most general practice was to marry in their own 
nearer kindred, in their own tribe. 

3. In the case of the T/xXjgo/, or ' heiresses,' it was com- 
manded, both in the Hebrew and in the Attic laws, that 
cousins-german should marry, lest the inheritance should go 
from the family, of which I have already given an account ; 
but now I only observe the reasonableness and advantage. 
St. Austin's " largius sparge amicitias" is nothing; for when 
any considerable advantage is to be done, certainly our own 
are to be preferred before strangers. And the same also is 
true in proportion, when any one of the family is, passion- 
ately and to pious purposes, in Idve with his cousin. 

4. In the case of an aunt's daughter to be married to her 
cousin by her mother's brother, there is this advantage to be 
gotten to the female side ; she preserves her father's name in 
her own issue, which she had lost in her own person and 

5. In the accidents of household conversation, and in the 
satieties of a husband's love, the stock of kindred comes in 
by way of auxiliary forces, to establish a declining or tempted 
love : and they understood this well, who made it an objec- 
tion against the marriage of kindred, lest the love, being upon 
two accounts, should be too violent, as Aristotle, in the 
second book of his Politics, seems to intimate. But I 


suppose that they who are concerned in such marriages, 
will not fear the objection ; but they have reason to value 
the advantage. 

Pietas geminato crescit amore, d 

while the marital love is supported with the cognation. 

6. St. Austin's 6 argument is to me highly consider- 
able : " Fuit antiquis patribus religiosse curae, ne ipsa pro- 
pinquitas se paulatim propaginum ordinibus dirimens longius 
abiret, et propinquitas esse desisteret, earn nondum longe 
positam rursus matrimonii vinculo colligare, et quodammodo 
renovare fugientem ; The dearness of kindred will quickly 
wear out, and cousins 'will too soon grow strangers ; there- 
fore the patriarchs had a religious care to recall the propin- 
quity which was dividing and separating too fast, and, as it 
were, to bind it by the ties of marriage, and recall it when it 
was flying away." And indeed there is no greater stability 
to a family, no greater band to conjugal affections, than the 
marriage of cousins. 

I should now speak no more to this question, but that I 
have often met with a trifling objection, concerning which I 
could never find any reasonable pretence, or ground of pro- 
bability to warrant it : ' Second cousins may not marry, but 
are expressly forbidden ; therefore, much rather first cousins, 
though they be not named/ To this I answer, that I never 
knew the marriage of second cousins forbidden, but by them 
who at the same time forbade the marriage of the first ; and 
indeed I have searched and cannot fix my eye upon any 
thing that I can imagine to be the ground of the fancy : 
therefore, I can say no more to it ; but that the law of God 
does not forbid either, nor the laws of our Church or State, 
nor the laws of nature 'or nations, or right reason, but these 
marriages have advantages in all these. And we find that 
Isaac married his second cousin, and that was more for it 
than ever could be said against it. Abraham was careful, 
and Rebeccah was careful that their children, respectively, 
should marry within their own kindred ; for it was so designed, 
because those families were to be greatly and specially 

d Ovid. M. x. 333. Gierig. vol. ii. p. 100. 
Lib. IT. c. 16, de Civil. Dei. 


blessed ; and they called one another into the participation 
of it. I conclude this question with as much warranty to the 
marriage of cousins-german, as can derive from the premises ; 
they may without scruple own it, and say, 

Viderit amplexus aliquis, laudabimur ambo. 

I know no other pretences of any instance obliging 
Christians, derived only from the judicial law. These two 
do not oblige; and, therefore, the rule is true in its direct 


The Ten Commandments of Moses, commonly called the Moral 
Law, is not a perfect Digest of the Law of Nature. 

THE Jews in their Cabala say, that the law of God was made 
before the creation of the world two thousand years, and 
written in black burnt letters on the backside of a bright 
shining fire ; according to that of David, "Thy word is a 
lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Their 
meaning is (for under fantastic expressions they sometimes 
intended to represent a material truth), that the decalogue, 
or their system of moral precepts, was nothing but an express 
of the tables of the law of nature ; long before Moses's time 
given and practised by their fathers. But this was not a 
perfect system ; it was the best that ever was since Adam 
broke the tables of the natural law, and let sin and weak 
principles into the world ; and it was sufficient in the present 
constitution of the world ; but even this also was but like " a 
paedagogue to bring us to Christ." In the schools of Moses 
they practised the first rudiments of perfection ; but Christ 
was the last, and therefore the most perfect, lawgiver ; and 
they that did commence under Moses, the servant of God, 
were to proceed under Jesus Christ, the Son of God ; and, 
therefore, the apostle* calls Christ rekos rov w^w : and if we 
will acknowledge Christ to be our lawgiver, and the Gospel 

* Romans, vii. 14. 


to be his law, called in the New Testament, " the law of 
liberty," " a royal law ;" then we must expect that our duty 
shall be further extended than to a conformity in our lives to 
the ten words of Moses. 

I do not here intend to dispute whether Christ hath 
given us laws, of which, neither before Moses nor since, 
there are any footsteps in the Old Testament ; for I think 
there are none such, but in the letter or in the analogy they 
were taught and recommended before : but this I say, that 
some excellences and perfections of morality were by Christ 
superadded in the very instances of the decalogue ; these 
also were bound upon us with greater severity, are endeared 
to us by special promises ; and we, by proper aids, are enabled 
to their performance ; and the old commandments are expli- 
cated by new commentaries, and are made to be laws in new 
instances, to which by Moses they are not obliged ; and^some 
of those excellent sayings which are respersed in the Old 
Testament, and which arc the dawnings of the evangelical 
light, are now part of that body of light which derives from 
the Sun of Righteousness : insomuch that a commandment 
which was given of old, was given again in a new manner, 
and to new purposes, and in more eminent degrees ; and, 
therefore, is also called a new commandment. Thus the 
conversation evangelical 1 * is called 'an old commandment' 
and ' a new one.' So that in the whole this will amount 
to the same thing, as if they were new commandments. I 
will not, therefore, trouble this article with those artificial 
nothings ; or endeavour to force any man to say Christ 
hath given us new commandments ; but this I suppose to 
be very evident, that we are by Jesus Christ obliged to 
do many things, to which the law of Moses did not oblige 
the sons of Israel : but whether this was by a new impo- 
sition, or a new explication of the old, it matters not, save 
that some men will be humoured in their own manner of 

I give an instance : The Christians are obliged to love 
their brethren, and their neighbours ; the Jews were so too : 
but Christ commanded us to love those whom the Jews 
did not call brethren or neighbours ; even all that have the 

b 1 John, ii. 7, 8. 


same nature, even all that are in calamity. For to the 
question asked by the pharisees, * And who is our neigh- 
bour?' Christ answered by the parable of him that fell 
among the thieves : he that is in need, is our neighbour. 
The Jews understood this to mean nothing but one of the 
same nation or religion ; the rest they hated. Here then is 
a new duty, to which the Jews, in the same latitude and 
in the same expressions, were not bound by the decalogue ; 
and this is as much as a new commandment ; for it is new 
to me, if it imposes a new duty. So if God forbids incest, 
and by it only means the conjunction of parents and 
children, if afterwards he commands us to abstain from 
brother and sister, uncles and aunts, this is a new law 
under the old words. The Jews c might hate their ene- 
mies, but Christians have none ; that is, they have none 
whom they are to repute such by a legal account. The 
seven nations in Palestine were, legally and properly, to be 
accounted enemies ; but to Christians all are to be esteemed 
as brethren in some account or other ; ovfalg e%$g1>s rw <s<rovdai<fi, 
" To a good man no man is enemy :" d so that by alteration 
of the subject-matter, the old law is become new; that is, we 
have a new law. " Lex vetus amorem docet in proximos, 
nova in extraneos; 6 The old law teaches love to neigh- 
bours, the new to strangers :" that is, to such whom the Jews 
called so ; but yet the Christians are to treat as neighbours. 
For that is a duty to us, which was not so to them ; and we 
may perish for omitting that, to which they were not obliged 
so much as under the pain of a legal impurity. 

But not only in the object of our duty, but in the expres- 
sion and signification of action, Christ is a new lawgiver. 
They and we are bound to love our brethren ; but the pre- 
cept of love did not bind them to what we are bound : we 
must die f for our brethren ; and of this we have an express 
commandment, which, it is certain, they had not ; and no sign 
of it in their moral law. And it is not the same words, but 
the same intention of duty that makes the same law. The 
Jews were bound to love their wives ; but an easiness of 
divorce did consist with that duty exacted by that law, but 

Levit. xix. 18. d Hierocles, Needham, p. 56, line 11, a sum. pag. 

Tertull. ' 1 Join, iii. 16. John, XT. 12, 13. 


it will not do so in ours. Now as in moral actions, a degree 
alters the kind, so it is in laws ; for every new degree of 
duty that is required, supposes a new authority or a new 
sanction to infer it ; for the same law does not in one age 
directly permit an action, and in another forbid it; it does 
not reward in that person, which in another it will condemn. 

But I add other instances. If repentance be a precept, 
and not only a privilege, it is certain, that, in the Gospel, 
there is a precept which was not permitted, much less en- 
joined ; for this obedience supposes Christ to be our Re- 
deemer in nature, before he is our lawgiver ; and, therefore, 
that it could be no part of their moral law. But repentance 
is not, properly and primarily, a law of nature ; for though 
it was the first action of religion that we find was done in 
the world, yet it is such a one as supposes nature lapsed, 
and therefore at the most can be but adopted into the law of 
nature ; but yet because it is as much a part of the law 
of nature, as restitution is a part of natural justice, this 
instance is not altogether an improper illustration of this 

B ut there are also many things for which provisions are 
made in the law of nature ; for which there is no caution in 
the decalogue. I instance in the matter of incest ; and if 
any man will reduce it to the fifth commandment, it is cer- 
tain he must then suppose only the mixture of parents and 
children to be, and that of brother and sister not to be, 
incestuous ; for these cannot come under the title of father 
and mother ; and if it be referred to the seventh command- 
ment, it will be as improper as to suppose jeering to be for- 
bidden in the sixth. I could add, that there being but two 
affii*mative precepts in the decalogue, there is no caution 
against sins of omission in any other instances. 

I will not instance in those precepts which relate to our 
blessed Lord himself, and are superinduced by Christianity 
upon the law of nature ; such as are " faith in Jesus Christ, 
hope of eternal life, fraternal conception, avoiding scan- 
dal, custody of the tongue in many instances, the sacra- 
ments, to stand fast in Christian liberty, searching the 
Scriptures, humility, mortification, bearing the infirmi- 
ties of the weak," and many more; all which proclaim 
Christ to be our lawgiver ; but do not properly denote the 



imperfection of the decalogue, as it is the system of the laws 
of nature. 

But I add from this very stock of nature many others. 
For though by the decalogue we are forbidden to do evil, 
yet we are not commanded to do good : and that is a 
material consideration ; and cannot by way of reduction be 
brought hither : because they are wholly different things, 
and are the effects of several reasons, and to be encouraged 
by distinct promises or immunities respectively, and are not 
consequent to each other. For the sons of Israel and all 
the world are bound to do evil to no man, but are not bound 
to do good to every man : the first is possible, the second 
is not : and the Jews never understood that they were 
bound to give alms by the sixth commandment : and, in 
nature, the obligation to do good is upon a positive account; 
as the obligation itself is. Of the same nature is gratitude, 
readiness to help a man in need, to keep a secret in- 
trusted to us, to perform promises: all of which are of 
greater concernment to mankind than to be intrusted only 
to analogies, uncertain inferences, and secret corollaries; 
and yet for these there is no provision made in the ten 

Neither can this measure of the decalogue be reproved 
by saying, that * all these laws of nature, and all the laws of 
Christ, may be reduced to the decalogue.' I know it is said 
so very commonly, and the casuists do commonly use that 
method, that the explication of the decalogue be the sum of 
all their moral theology; but how insufficiently, the foregoing 
instances do sufficiently demonstrate ; and therefore, how in- 
artificially, will also appear in the violence and convulsions 
that must needs be used to draw all these dissonances into 
one centre. I remember that Tertullian g (I suppose to try 
his wit) finds all the decalogue in the commandment which 

* O 

God gave to Adam to abstain from the forbidden fruit : " In 
hac enim lege, Adse data, omnia prtecepta condita recognos- 
cimus, quae postea pullulaverunt data per Moysen." And 
just so may all the laws of nature and of Christ be found in 
the decalogue, as the decalogue can be found in the precept 
given to Adam : but then also they might be found in the 

K Lib. adv. Jud. 


first commandment of the decalogue; and then what need 
had there been often? It is, therefore, more than probable, 
that this was intended as a digest of all those moral laws, in 
which God would expect and exact their obedience ; leaving 
the perfection and consummation of all unto the time of the 
Gospel: God intending by several portions of the eternal or 
natural law to bring the world to that perfection from whence 
mankind by sin did fall ; and by Christ to enlarge this na- 
tural law to a similitude and conformity to God himself, as 
far as our infirmities can bear. It was very well said of 
Tertullian, h " Intelligimus Dei legem etiam ante Moysen; 
nee in Oreb tantum, aut in Sina et in eremo primum, sed 
antiquiorem, primum in Paradiso, post patriarchis, atque ita 
ex Judaeis certis temporibus reformatam : ut non jam ad 
Moysis legem ita attendamus, quasi ad principalem legem, 
sed ad subsequentem quam certo tempore Deus et gentibus 
exhibuit, et repromissam per prophetas in melius reformavit: 
The law of God was before Moses, neither given in Horeb 
nor in Sinai, in the wilderness nor in the land, but first given 
in Paradise ; afterwards to the patriarchs, and then being 
reformed it was given to the Jews: so that we are not to look 
after Moses's law as the principal, but to the law that comes 
after the law of Moses, which being promised by the pro- 
phets, God, in the fulness of time, gave unto the Gentiles in 
the times of reformation." 

The effects of this rule in order to conscience are these: 

1 . That we acknowledge Christ to be our lord and master, 
our lawgiver and our teacher. 

2. That we understand the ten commandments according 
to his commentary. 

3. That the customs, explications, glosses, and usages of 
the Jews, may not be the limit of our practice. 

4. That we expect not justification by our conformity to 
the decalogue. 

5. That we endeavour to go on to perfection ; not ac- 
cording to the pattern which Moses, but which Christ 
shewed on the Mount. 

6. That we do not reckon any system of the natural law, 
but the books of the New Testament. 

h Lib. adv. Jud. 


7. That we do not esteem it sufficient for us to live ac- 
cording to nature (as the expression is commonly used), but 
that we live according to grace, that is, the measures of 
reformed nature. For in this sense these words of Justin 
Martyr are true and useful, rb %.ara <pv<siv /3/oSi/ ouSsTw -rs^/ffrsu- 
mrog hrh, "To live according to nature is the ornament or 
praise of one that is yet an unbeliever :" meaning that the 
disciples of Jesus must do more. For according as the 
world grows in age, so also it is instructed in wise notices ; 
and it must pass on to glory by all the measures and pro- 
gressions of grace ; and all that law by which we live in all 
the periods of the world, is nothing else but the several 
degrees and promotions of the law of nature. For children 
are governed by one measure and young men by another, 
and old men still by a more perfect ; and yet the whole is 
nothing else but right reason drawn into laws, and that 
which fits our nature bound upon us by the decree of God : 
some laws fit our natures, as they are common to us and 
beasts; some fit us as we are next to angels; and some fit 
us as we are designed to immortality and the fruition of 
God ; and the laws of nature do grow as our natures do. 
And as we see it is in matters of speculation, those principles 
enter into us, or are drawn from their hidden places, in our 
age, of which we had no sign in our youth ; and when we 
are children, we admire at those things, and call those dis- 
courses deep and excellent, which, when we are grown up, 
we are ashamed of as being ignorant and pitiful; so it is in 
our manners, and so it is in our practical notices ; they all 
grow, till they arrive at their state and period : but because 
the eternal laws of God, that is, those laws which are not 
fitted to times, and persons, and relations, but to the nature 
of man, that is, to all mankind, intend to bring us to God 
and to all that perfection of which we are capable ; therefore 
it is that they also must increase according to the growth of 
nature. When, therefore, the nature of man was rude and in 
its infancy, God drew out of the eternal fountain but a few 
of these natural laws : but he still superadded more as the 
world did need them ; and at the last, by his Son, who, by 
his incarnation, hath adorned our nature with a robe of glory, 
hath drawn out all those by which we are to converse with 
God and men in the best and greatest intercourses : that he 


might enable our nature to dispositions proper and im- 
mediate to a state of glory. Not but they all were poten- 
tially in the bowels of the great 'commandments; but that 
God did not, by any prophets or lawgivers, draw them all 
forth, till the great day of reformation, at the revelation of 
the Son of God. But in this the sentence of Irenseus' is wise 
and full : " Consummata vitas praecepta in utroque Testa- 
mento cum sint eadem,eundem ostenderunt Deum, qui particu- 
laria quidem praecepta aptautrisque prseceptis, sedeminentiora 
et summa, sine quibus salvari non potest, in utroque eadem 
suasit; The precepts of perfect life are the same in both 
Testaments, and do demonstrate the same God of both ; who 
indeed hath given, severally, several instances of command- 
ments ; but the more eminent and the chief, without which 
salvation is not to be had, are the same in both :" meaning 
that there are the same general lines of religion and of 
justice in the Old and in the New ; but the special and parti- 
cular precepts are severally instanced by Christ and Moses. 


All the Explications of the moral Law, which are found in the 
Prophets and other holy Writers of the Old Testament) are 
to be accounted as parts of the moral Law, and equally 
obliging the Conscience. 

HE that will explicate the Mosaic law according to the per- 
fections of the Gospel, does expound the words of a child 
by the senses and deepest policies of a witty man. I have 
seen some parts of Virgil changed into impure Fescennines ; 
and I have also seen them changed into the sense and style 
of the Gospel ; but Virgil intended neither, though his words 
were capable of both ; and yet the way to understand Virgil 
is by the commentaries of men of his own time, or nation, or 
learned in the language and customs of the Romans. So it 
is in the decalogue of Moses. If Christians understand it 
by all the severities and enlarged notices of the Gospel, they 
accuse their own commentary as too large, or the practice of 

' Lib. iv. c. 26. in princip. 


the Jews who never obeyed them at that rate ; and therefore 
all those wild reductions of all good and bad to that measure 
is of no good use, but it is full of error, and may have some 
ill effects, of which I have already given caution ; but then 
because they may be explicated and can admit a commen- 
tary, as all laws do beyond their letter, there is nothing 
more reasonable than that the commentaries or additional 
explications of their own prophets and holy men, and the 
usages of their nation, be taken into the sacredness of the 
text and the limits of the commandment. 

Thus when God had said, " Thou shall do no murder;" 
when Moses, in another place, adds these words, " Thou shalt 
not hate thy brother in thy heart;"" nor be mindful of an 
injury : this is to be supposed to be intended by God in the 
commandment ; and to be a just commentary to the text, 
and therefore part of the moral law. When they were com- 
manded to worship the God of Israel, and no other, this was 
to be understood according to David's commentary ; and 
when he had composed forms of prayer to God, to pray 
to him was to be supposed to be a duty of the command- 
ment. God commanded that they should ' honour father 
and mother/ which appellative when Moses and the holy 
writers of the Old Testament had given to princes and ma- 
gistrates, and had, in another place, expressly commanded 
obedience to them, it is to be supposed that this is an expli- 
cation of the fifth commandment. 

This also is to be extended further, and by the sayings 
of the prophets they could understand what things were 
permitted by Moses, which yet God loved not ; and that the 
commandment had a further purpose than their usages would 
endure : and though (as our blessed Lord afterward ex- 
pressed) " Moses permitted divorces for the hardness of 
their heart," yet that " from the beginning it was not so," 
and that greater piety was intended in the commandment, 
they were sufficiently taught by the gloss, which God himself 
inserted and published by the prophet Hosea, " 1 hate putting 
away." In this and all other cases, the natural reasonable- 
ness of things, natural justice, and essential piety, and the 
first institution of them, were the best indications of these 

Lev. zix. 17, 18. 


effects which such sayings of the prophets and other holy 
men ought to have in the enlargement of the moral law, 
or restraint of privileges and liberties. 

The use of this rule in order to the government of con- 
science is to describe of what usefulness in our religion, and 
what influence in our lives, is the Old Testament ; all the 
moral precepts which are particulars of the natural law or 
universal reason, are either explications of the decalogue or 
precepts evangelical, by which the old prophets did ' prepare 
the way of our Lord, and make his paths straight.' It is the 
same religion, theirs and ours, as to the moral part : intend- 
ing glory to the same God by the same principles of 
prime reason, differing only in the clarity and obscurity of 
the promises or motives of obedience, and in the particular 
instances of the general laws, and in the degrees of duties 

o * o 

spiritual : but in both God intended to bring mankind to 
eternal glories by religion or the spiritual worshippings of 
one God, by justice and sobriety, that is, by such ways as 
naturally we need for our natural and perfective being even 
in this world. Now, in these things, the prophets are 
preachers of righteousness, and we may refresh our souls at 
those rivulets springing from the wells of life, but we must 
fill and bathe ourselves ' in fontibus Salvatoris, in the foun- 
tains of our blessed Saviour ;' for he hath anointed our heads, 
prepared a table for us, and made our cup to overflow, and 
" of his fulness we have all received, grace for grace." 

But this is, at no hand, to be extended to those prohi- 
bitions or reprehensions of their prevarications of any of 
the signal precepts of religion, by which as themselves were 
distinguished from other nations, so God would be glorified 
in them. For sometimes the prophets represented the anger 
of God in a ceremonial instance: when either they sinned 
with a high hand in that instance, that is, with despite and 
contempt of the Divine commandment, or when the ceremony 
had a mixture of morality, or when it was one of the dis- 
tinctions of the nation, and a consignation of them to be the 
people of God. But this will be reduced to practice by the 
next rule. 



Every thing in the Decalogue is not obligatory to Christians, 
is not a portion of the moral or natural Law. 

WHEN Moses delivered the ten commandments to the 
people, he did not tell them in order which was second, 
which was fifth : and upon this account they have been 
severally divided, as men did please to fancy. I shall not 
clog these annotations with enumerating the several ways of 
dividing them ; "but that which relates to the present inquiry 
is, whether or no the prohibition of graven images be a 
portion of the first commandment ; so as that nothing is 
intended, but that it be a part or explication of that: and 
that it contain in it only the duty of confessing one God, 
and entertaining no other deity, viz. so that images become 
not an idol, or the final object of our worship as a God ; and 
therefore that images are only forbidden as 'Dii alieni,' 
not as the representations of this one God, and they are 
capable of any worship but that which is proper to God : or 
else it is a distinct commandment : and forbids the having, 
or making, and worshipping any images, with any kind of 
religious worship. These are the several effects, which are 
designed by the differing divisions of the first table ; I will 
not now examine, whether they certainly follow from their 
premises and presuppositions; but consider what is right, 
and what follows from thence in order to the integrating 
' the rule of conscience.' That those two first command- 
ments are but one, was the doctrine of Philo the Jew (at 
least it is said so) ; who, making the preface to be a distinct 
commandment, reckons this to be the second ; " Deos sculp- 
tiles non facies tibi, nee facies omne abominamentum solis 
et lunac, nee omnium quae sunt supra terrain, nee eorum quae 
repunt in aquis, ego sum Deus Dominus tuus zelotes," &c. 
And the same was followed by Athanasius," " This book hath 
these ten commandments in tables ; the first is 'Eyw s 
6 Qsog aov' dsursgav, Ou voiqffiis teavrw s'/duXov ovdf wavrbg 
* I am the Lord thy God :' the second, * Thou shalt not make 

Synop. Script, torn. ii. 


an idol to thyself, nor the likeness of any thing ;' " and this 
division was usual in St. Cyril's b time, who brings in Julian 
thus accounting them; " I am the Lord thy God, which 
brought thee out of the land of Egypt : the second after this: 
* Non erunt tibi Dii alieni praeter me, non facies tibi simu- 
lachrum,' " &c. And the same way is followed by St. Je- 
rome and Hesychius: d these make the introduction to be 
one of the commandments ; and those which we call the 
first and the second to be the second only. 

2. Of the same opinion, as to the uniting of these two, is 
Clemens Alexandrinus; 6 and St. Austin/ " Et revera quod 
dictum est ; ' Non erunt tibi Dii alieni,' hoc ipsum perfectius 
expiicatur, cum prohibentur colenda figmenta ; the prohi- 
bition of images is a more perfect explication of those words, 
' Thou shalt have no other gods but me.' " To the same 
sense, Venerable Bede, g St. Bernard, 11 the ordinary gloss, 
Lyra, Hugo Cardinalis, Lombard, the Church of Rome, and 
almost all the Lutheran Churches, do divide the decalogue. 

3. On the other side, these are made to be two distinct 
commandments by the Chaldee paraphrast, 1 and by Jo- 
sephus; k " Primum prseceptum, Deum esse unum, et hunc 
solum colendum. Secundum, nullius animalis simulachrum 
adorandum." And these are followed by Origen, 1 Gregory 
Nazianzen, m St. Ambrose, and St. Jerome," even against his 
opinion expressed in another place, and St. Chrysostom, 
St. Austin, or whosoever is the author of the questions of the 
Old and New Testament, Sulpitius Severus, Zonaras ; and 
admitted as probable by Venerable Bede ; but followed 
earnestly by all the Churches that follow Calvin ; and by the 
other protestants, not Lutherans. 

4. In this great contrariety of opinion, that which I 
choose to follow is the way of the Church of England ; 
which as it hath the greater and more certain authority from 
antiquity, so it hath much the greater reasonableness. For 
when God had commanded the worship of himself alone, ex- 
cluding all false gods, in the next words he was pleased 

b Lib. v. cont. Jul. c In c. x. Hos. d In xxvi. Levit. 

e Lib. vi. Strom. f Qu. Ixxi. in Ex. 8 In xx. Exod. 

h Sup. Salv. Reg. ' In c. xx. Exod. 

k Lib. iii. Antiq. c. 4. ' Lib. iii. horn. 8. in Exod. 

m In Carm. n In vi. Ephes. 


also to forbid them to worship him in that manner by which 
all the gods of the nations were worshipped, which was by 
images : insomuch that their images were called gods, not 
that they thought them so, but that the worshipping of 
false gods, and worshipping by images, were by the idolaters 
ever joined. Now this being a different thing from the other, 
one regarding the object, the other the manner of worship, 
it is highly reasonable to believe that they make two 
commandments. 2. God would not be worshipped by an 
image, because none could be made of him ; and therefore it 
is remarkable that God did duplicate his caution against 
images of him, by adding this reason to his precept, "Re- 
member that ye saw no shape, but only heard a voice:" 
which as it was a direct design of God, that they might not 
make an image of him, and so worship him as the idolaters 
did their false gods, so it did, indirectly at least, intimate to 
them, that " God would be worshipped in spirit and truth :" 
that is, not with a lying image : as every image of him must 
needs be : for it can have no truth, when a finite body repre- 
sents an infinite spirit. And this is most likely to be thus: 
because this being a certain digest of the law of nature, in it 
the natural religion and worship of God was to be com- 
manded ; and, therefore, that it should be spiritual and true, 
that is, not with false imaginations and corporal represent- 
ment, was to be the matter of a commandment. 3. Since 
the first table did so descend to particulars as by a distinct 
precept to appoint the day of his worship : it is not unlikely 
that the essential and natural manner of doing it should 
also be distinctly provided for, since the circumstantial was : 
but that could not be at all, if it was a portion of the first 
commandment: for then the sense of it must be according 
to the first intention, that images should not become our 
gods. 4. The heathens did not suppose their images to be 
their gods, but representments of their gods ; and therefore 
it is not so likely that God should, by way of caution, so 
explicate the first commandment ; when there was no danger 
of doing any such thing, unless they should be stark mad, 
or fools, and without understanding. 5. When God forbade 
them to make and worship the likeness of any thing in 
heaven and earth, he sufficiently declared, that his meaning 
was to forbid that manner of worshipping, not that object ; 


for by saying it was "the likeness of something," it declared 
that this likeness could not be the object of their worship, 
ping ; for because it is the image of a thing, therefore it is 
not the thing they worshipped ; and it cannot be supposed 
of a man, that he can make the image of the sun to be his 
God, when he makes that image of the sun, because he 
thinks the sun is the most excellent thing. When, there- 
fore, in the first commandment, he had forbidden them to 
acknowledge the sun, or any thing else but himself, to be 
God, in the next, he forbids the worshipping himself or 
any thing else by an image. But of this I shall speak more 
afterwards, because it relates to the moral duty. 

5. But I observe, that all those moderns who confound 
these two commandments, have not that pretence which 
the ancients had; and have quitted all that by which such 
confusion could have been, in any sense, tolerable. For 
Philo, and those ancients who followed him, reckon the first 
commandment to be, " I am the Lord thy God," &c. ; by 
which God would be acknowledged to be the Lord : and the 
second did forbid " any other besides him." So that there 
might be some appearance of reason to make the first com- 
mandment affirmative, and the second negative : the first, to 
declare who is God; the second, to forbid polytheism : the 
first, to declare his entity; the second, to publish his unity: 
the first, to engage their duty to him who had so lately 
endeared them by freedom from captivity ; the second, to 
forbid the adopting the gods of the nations with whom they 
were now to converse. I confess that these reasons are riot 
sufficient ; for they multiply, where there is no need, and 
make a division without difference ; and leave all those 
periods, which are about images, to be of no use, no signifi- 
cation; and concerning their own practice and religion in 
the matter of images, though it is certain they wholly de- 
rived it from the commandment, yet they take no notice of 
any warrant at all derived from thence; but supposing that 
they did make the division for these reasons, arid that these 
reasons were good, yet all the moderns quit all this pre- 
tension, and allow but three commandments to the first 
table, and divide the second into seven ; to effect which they 
make two commandments against concupiscence : concern- 
ing which I will not say they might have reckoned more 


according to the multiplication of the objects, four as well 
as two ; but this I say, as it is wholly without necessity, and 
very destitute of any probability, so it is done against the 
very order of words. For although Moses, in Deuteronomy, 
reckons the concupiscence of the wife first, yet, in Exodus, 
which is the copy of the decalogue as it was given, Moses 
reckons the concupiscence of the house first: so that the 
ninth commandment lies in the body of the tenth; and the 
tenth lies part of it before the ninth, and part of it after : 
which is a prejudice against it greater than can be out- 
weighed by any or all the pretences which are or can be 
made for it : especially since, by the opinions of the Roman 
doctors, these two cannot, as they lie here, make two ob- 
jects : for to covet another man's wife is the same as to 
covet another man's servant, that is, as a possession; for 
multitude of wives was great riches, and the peculiar of 
princes, as appears in Nathan's upbraiding David, and the 
case of Solomon: but to covet the wife ' propter libidinem,' 
is forbidden by the seventh commandment, as the Roman 
doctors teach, and under that they handle it. Therefore the 
wife, and the servant, and the beast of another man, being 
here forbidden to be desired as matter of covetousness, 
make but one object, and consequently but one command- 
ment: and if, because a difference can be fancied, the wife 
and the house make two objects, then the servant makes a 
third ; for a house differs from a wife no more than a servant 
from a house ; the use of these is as different as of those, 
and can make as distinct objects of appetite and desire ; 
and, therefore, either they all must make but one command- 
ment, or they must make more than two. 

6. But the Church of Rome and the Lutherans have several 
interests, for, other reasons they have none in so doing. 
The Church of Rome confounds the two commandments, 
lest the worshipping of images should appear to be forbidden. 
For if it be a distinct commandment which forbids the wor- 
ship of images, then, because all false objects of worship are 
sufficiently forbidden in the first, it will not be a competent 
answer to say, ' We do not worship images as gods, we do 
not make idols of them;' for to worship any thing as God 
is not forbidden in the second commandment, but in the 
first: but, therefore, lest the second commandment should 


signify nothing, it follows, that the taking of images into 
religion, or the worshipping God, whether true or false, by 
an image, is there forbidden. But if these two command- 
ments were one, then they suppose, that this of forbidding- 
images, being a pursuance of the prohibition of having any 
other gods, expounds itself only to mean the making images 
to be God ; which because they do not, they hope to stand 
upright in the scrutiny concerning this commandment. 

7. But to this I return this account: that although it be 
certain that if these commandments be divided, it will follow 
that this manner of religion by image-worship is particularly 
forbidden as a false manner of worshipping, and conse- 
quently is, upon no pretence, to be introduced into religion; 
yet if we should suppose them to be but one commandment, 
it will not follow that images are not forbidden to be used in 
religious worshippings. For if God forbade them to make 
' deos sculptiles, engraven gods,' that is, to worship such 
gods as may be depicted or engraven, such as the sun and 
moon, Apis and Jupiter, the ox of Egypt or the fire of 
Persia ; then, by the same reason, we conclude that ' deus 
sculptilis' is no god; and therefore, to make the God of 
Israel to be a god depicted or engraven, does dishonour and 
depress him to the manner of an idol. For, therefore, in the 
decalogue, recited by Philo, and in the sense of all the 
ancients, the reason against making an engraven god is, 
" Ego sum Deus tuus zelotes ; I am thy God, I am thy 
jealous God ;" that is, ' I who cannot be represented by 
such vanities, I am thy God, but they are not, who can.' 
Add to this ; that since the doctors of the Roman Church 
make the decalogue to be the fountain of all moral theology, 
and, by that method, describe all cases of conscience; it is 
necessary that they take into the body and obligation of 
every commandment not only what is expressed in the letter 
and first signification, but the species, the relations, and 
similitudes, the occasions, any thing that is like the prohibi- 
tion, and concerning which we cannot tell whether it be or 
no ; and upon this account, if they can retain images, or 
think to honour God by the use and worshipping of them, 
they may be confident of any thing, and may as well use 
some pollutions of the flesh, as such pollutions of idols. 

8. But there is also more in it than thus. For although it 


is usually supposed by learned persons, that Philo the Jew, 
Athanasius, St. Jerome, and St. Austin, are of opinion that 
the two commandments are not to be divided, but are all one; 
yet if we look into their sayings, we shall find them to have 
other effects than they suppose. For they, making the 
preface to be the first commandment, " I am the Lord thy 
God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt," do 
suppose, that the object of religion and Divine worship is 
sufficiently declared, in that they think the same of that as 
all other men do of the following words: "Thou shalt have 
no other gods but me ;" viz. that God, proposing himself as 
their God, whom only they were to worship, did, by that, 
sufficiently exclude the worship of all false gods, or giving 
Divine worship to any thing besides himself: so that, when 
the object is sufficiently provided for, as it is in the first 
commandment, however it be computed, the former argu- 
ments will return upon them, and it will be most probable, 
that the next provision be made for the manner of the Divine 
worship; and then the use of images in religion, and the 
religious worship of them, will be, by a necessary and imme- 
diate consequent, forbidden: for the forbidding 'deos sculp- 
tiles,' forbids not only other gods, but forbids them with 
that reason and demonstration. They that can be engraven 
or painted, are no gods, and therefore images and false gods 
are equally forbidden ; wherever an image is joined to a god, 
there is a false god, or no true god : for an image and the 
true God are inconsistent. So that, wherever there are two 
commandments before that of taking God's name in vain, 
as it is amongst all the ancients (Clemens Alexandrinus only 
excepted), there it is most likely, that the first provides for 
the object of Divine worship affirmatively, and the second for 
the manner negatively : and the effect of this will be, that 
they are, in their division of the decalogue, almost wholly 
destitute of authority or warrant from the ancients, for they 
all make four commandments in the first table, at least. 
The Jews usually indeed did reckon five, taking in that of 
honouring our parents ; but they always made that of the 
Sabbath to be the fourth ; by all which it must needs be, 
that they must lie under the same objection which they 
would fain avoid : and though they confound those two 
which we usually now reckon the two first, yet because the 


Jews and ancient Christians who reckoned otherwise, did 
account one commandment to the same purpose as we 
reckon the first ; that which follows, can never be proved 
to mean any thing but a prohibition of that manner of Divine 
worship by images : for it implies, that to worship God by 
an image, is to worship an idol : an image of God, when it 
is worshipped, is an idol; for neither can the true God have 
an image, neither will he be worshipped by an image. Now, 
though this will not at all concern the images of saints, but 
only the worship of God by an image, yet even this also, 
when they think this image-worship shall be a worshipping 
and honouring of God indirectly, and an act pleasing to 
him, will come under this commandment, as certainly and 
more apparently than fornication or intemperance shall come 
under the sixth or seventh ; whither their doctors usually 
reduce them. 

9. This thing more I am willing to add concerning the 
division of the decalogue : that when the ancients did reckon 
the preface or introduction to be the first commandment, it 
is not certain that they put the words of " Thou shalt have 
no other Gods but me" to the second. For as for Philo, he 
does not recite them at all, but reckons the second otherwise 
than it is in Moses's books ; and it is not certain how he 
thought in this question, to him that well considers his copy 
of the decalogue. For he thus begins : " I am the Lord thy 
God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Thou 
shalt not make any graven gods to thyself: nor any abomi- 
nation of sun and moon : nor of any thing that is on the 
earth, or that creeps in the waters: I am thy Lord, the 
jealous God," &c. Now in this, which is first and which 
is second, is plain enough, though Philo does not number 
them : but whether the words of that which we call the first 
commandment, by him are understood in the first or in the 
second, does not hence appear. But then for St. Athanasius, 
whom the adversaries reckon theirs, the case is yet clearer 
against them : for " I am the Lord thy God," he reckons to 
be the first, omitting all that which follows until the second 
commandment : but the second he plainly and perfectly 
reckons as we do, " Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol, 
or graven image, nor the likeness of any thing." So that 
it is probable, he begins the first commandment with the 


preface : but it is certain he reckons the second as we do. 
St. Jerome and St. Austin are pretended for them ; but they 
also testify against them, and against themselves, by an 
uncertain and contradictory sentence, as I have shewed ; 
indeed the apostate Julian is much more for them, and does 
confound those which we call the two commandments, but 
yet reckons one before them, just as Philo ; so that, ex- 
cepting Julian, there will be found in antiquity " vel duo vel 
nemo," scarce one or two that is on their side. However 
against them there is a great authority and very great pro- 
babilities of reason ; of which, in the following periods, I 
shall add a more full account; in the meantime, as the 
Church of Rome is destitute of any just ground of their 
manner of dividing the ten commandments, so they will find, 
it will not serve that interest they have designed. 

10, But then for the Lutheran churches, they have, indeed, 
as little reason for their division, and a much less interest and 
necessity to serve and provide for. They, therefore, thrust 
the second into the first, lest it should be unlawful to make 
or to have pictures or images ; for they still keep them in 
their churches, and are fearful to be aspersed with a crime 
forbidden in the second commandment ; they keep them, I 
say, but for memory only, not for worship or direct religion. 
But in this they are more afraid than hurt. For suppose the 
second commandment to be distinct and wholly against 
images and their worship ; yet every thing in the command- 
ment is not moral, though the commandment itself be. For 
God was pleased to appoint such temporary instruments of 
a moral duty as were fitted to the necessities of that people ; 
but such instruments were but like temporary supporters, 
placed there but till the building could stand alone. But 
whether this clause of having or making images be referred to 
the first or to the second commandment, it is all one : if to 
the first, it means, that therefore they are not to be made by 
them, lest they become the object of Divine worship: if to 
the second, then they were not to be made, lest they become 
instruments of a false manner of the Divine worship : but in 
both, the prohibition is but relative, as appears in the parallel 
places of Levit. xix. 4, but especially Levit. xxvi. 1. "Ye 
shall make ye no idols, nor graven image, neither rear ye up 
a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone 


in your land (to bow down unto it), for I am the Lord your 
God :' by which it is plain, that the prohibition is not termi- 
nated on the image, but referring to religion ; and is of the 
same nature as the forbidding them to converse with idol- 
aters, or to make marriages with them ; which God himself 
expressed to be, lest they learn their evil customs ; and all 
the reason of the world tells us, that such clauses, whose 
whole reason is relative and instrumental, may be supplied by 
other instruments, and the reason of them or their necessity 
may cease, and consequently there can be no part of a na- 
tural law, whose reason, without a miracle and the change 
of nature, can never alter. So that this fear of theirs being 
useless, they may, without prejudice and interest, follow that 
which is more reasonable. And this was sufficiently indi- 
cated by the act and words of God himself, who gave order 
for the brazen serpent to be made, and the images, or rather 
hieroglyphics, of cherubim to be set over the propitiatory; 
which is not to be supposed he would have done, if it had 
been against his own eternal law : he suffered them not to 
worship them, but to make them, to shew that this was not 
against the moral part of the commandment, though that 
was : and the ark could endure the five golden mice and 
the five golden emerods, because though they were images, 
yet they were not idols, that is, were not intended for 
worship ; but because Dagon was, it fell before the ark; that 
could not be suffered : and in Solomon's temple, beside the 
pomegranates and other imagery, there were twelve brazen 
bulls ; but they were not intended for worship, and, there- 
fore, it was free to the Jews to use them or not : but the 
calves of Dan and Bethel, because they were ' fusiles dei,' 
graven images used in Divine worship, were an abomination : 
and upon the shekel of the sanctuary was impressed the 
image of Aaron's rod, and a pot of manna, or thurible : it 
was lawful while there was no danger of worshipping 

1 1 . This, then, is the first instance of the rule : the having 
or making of images, though it be forbidden to the Jews in 

Vide Manasseh Ben. Israel in Concil. q. 30 ; et Tertul. lib. ii. cent. 
Marcion. c. 22. Gab. Vasquez. disp. civ. c. 6. 



the second commandment, yet it is not unlawful to Christians. 
But of this I shall say more in the following periods. 

12. Now, concerning the religion of images, that is, wor- 
shipping God by them directly or indirectly, whether that 
be lawful to Christians ; although I have sufficiently declared 
the negative already, by reproving the great ground of 
that practice, I mean, the thrusting the two commandments 
together, and have proved that they ought not to be so con- 
founded ; or if they ought, yet that the worship of images is 
not concluded from thence to be lawful or permitted, yet I 
hope it will be neither useless nor unpleasant, if I determine 
this case upon its proper grounds, in these two inquiries : 

1 . Whether it be lawful to make a picture or image of God ? 

2. Whether it be lawful to worship God by a picture ? 

Quest. Whether it be lawful to make a picture or image 
of God ? 

13. I answer negatively: and that upon the plain words 
of God in Deuteronomy, which, upon the account of the fifth 
rule, are to be accounted as an explication of the moral law, 
and, therefore, obligatory to Christians : as relating to the 
matter of the commandment, giving a natural reason for a 
natural duty, and pursuing that with argument which before 
he had established with authority, and writing that in the 
tables of the heart which at first he delivered to Moses in 
tables of stone. p "Take ye therefore good heed unto your- 
selves ; for ye saw no manner of similitude in the day when 
the Lord spake unto you in Mount Horeb out of the midst of 
the fire : lest ye corrupt yourselves and make you a graven 
image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or 
female," &c. Now, why did God so earnestly remind them 
that they saw no image, but because he would not have them 
make any of him ? And this is frequently pressed by God in 
that manner, which shews it not only to be impious to do it 
against his commandment, but foolish, and impossible, and 
against all natural reason. " To whom will ye liken God ? 
or what likeness will ye compare unto him ?" said God by the 
prophet : q meaning, that there is none, there can be none : 
and you may as well measure eternity with a span, arid 

P Deut. iv. 15, 16. 1 Isaiah, xl. 18. 


grasp an infinite in the palm of your hand, as draw the 
circles and depict him, that hath no colour nor figure, no 
parts nor body, no accidents nor visibility. And this 
St. Paul argued out of Aratus ; 

K< rov f&tv yivo; ltrfjt.ii' 

"We are his offspring:" that is, we are made after his 
image and similitude ; Christ is the prototype, arid we are 
efformed after his image, who is " the first-born of all crea- 
tures :" man is made after the likeness of God ; not man in 
his body, but man in his soul, in his will and powers of 
choice, in his understanding and powers of discerning, in his 
memory and powers of recording ; and he that cannot make 
the image of a will, or by a graven image represent the 
understanding of a man, must never hope to make any thing 
like God : there is no way to do that, but to make a man : 
and although it be but an imperfect image of God, yet an 
image it is, and the best that is upon the earth. But now 
from hence the apostle argues/ " Forasmuch then as we 
are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the 
Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art 
and man's device." If the invisible, inexpressible part of 
man is the image of God, and we are his sons by creation, 
expressing in our souls some little things of his infinite per- 
fection, it cannot be supposed that this image can make an 
image like God ; and if it cannot be like him, it is not to be 
made for him ; for nothing is more unlike him than a lie. 
The Athenians were a dull people, and knew not how to an- 
swer St. Paul's argument; but we are, nowadays, taught to 
escape from this. For it is said, that it is true, God's 
essence cannot be depicted or engraven ; but such repre- 
sentations, by which he hath been pleased to communicate 
notices of himself, can as well be described with a pencil as 
with a pen, and as well set down, so that idiots may read 
and understand as well as the learned clerks. Now, because 
God was pleased to appear to Daniel like ' the Ancient of 
Days,' and the Holy Ghost in the shape of ' a dove,' and 
Christ in the form of ' a man,' these representations may be 
depicted and described by images without disparagement to 
the Divinity of God. 

r Acts, xvii. 21. 


14. To these I give these answers: 1. That the vision 
of Daniel seeing ' the Ancient of Days,' tells of no shape, 
nothing like an old man ; but by that phrase did seem to 
signify the eternal God : he tells of a head and hair like 'pure 
wool,' that is, pure and white, one of the synonyma of light 
or brightness, like that of his garment, 'like snow; his 
wheels were a burning fire, his throne a fiery flame ; ' that is, 
in effect, whenDaniel was asleep, he had a vision or phantasm 
in his head : where he had a representment of the eternal 
God, in a circumfusion and a great union of light and glory, 
which he, when he was awake, expressed by metaphors, 
imperfectly telling what phantasm that was in which he per- 
ceived the representment and communication of God ; that 
is, he there set down the shadow of a dream of a bright 
shining cloud : for the metaphor is a shadow, and his vision 
was a dream, and what he dreamt he saw, was but the in- 
vestiture of God ; like as when God, by his angel, went in a 
cloud of fire before the sons of Israel ; nay, not so much, for 
that was really so, this but a prophetic ecstasy in his 
sleep : the images of which are but very unfit to establish a 
part of Divine worship, and an article of practice, against 
natural reason and the letter of a commandment. But, 2. I 
demand, whether did Daniel see the eternal God then or 
no ? If he did not, then, at the most, it was but an angel of 
light in the place of God : and then this can never infer the 
lawfulness of making any image of God, for it was only 
God's angel, or a globe of glory instead of God, and not 
God that appeared in his own person. But if it be said he 
did see God, it apparently contradicts the Scripture : " No 
man hath seen God at any time :" and again, " the eternal 
God whom no man hath seen or can see." 3 The issue then 
is this, Daniel did not see God the Father, neither could 
he ; therefore God the Father was not represented to him by 
any visible species ; therefore neither can we, by any help or 
authority from his dream. And it is not sufficient to say, 
that, though Daniel did not see God's essence, yet he saw 
the representment ; for he did not see any representment of 
God ; he did not see God by any thing that expressed his 
person : for as for essences, no man can see the essence of a 
bee or a bird ; but sees it by some proper representment, but 

* 1 Tim. vi. 15, 16. 


yet by that representment he properly and truly sees the 
bird : but Daniel did no way see God's person or nature, not 
so much as by any phantasm or image : an angel of light, or 
the brightness of an angel, he might dream of in the ecstasy: 
but in no sense could he be said to see God, except only by 
his angel or ambassador. So that when it is said, " No man 
can see God," it cannot be meant, that God's essence cannot 
be seen ; for this had said no great matter ; for no essence 
can be seen ; but it must mean that God " dwells in an 
inaccessible light, whither no man can approach," out of 
which he will send no emissions of representment or visibility ; 
for, if he had so done at any time, or would do at all, it 
were not true, " that no man had seen him, or could see 
him :" for if he had communicated himself personally in any 
representment or visibility, then he had been seen, and in 
that instance, and at that time, he were not the invisible God. 
3. Suppose Daniel's vision had been of God himself; yet as 
it was done to him by special favour, so it was for a special 
purpose ; it was for a design of prophecy, and to declare 
future events in the matters of war and peace ; not to esta- 
blish a practice prejudicial to a commandment: and it is 
strange that a vision or night's dream, expressed by way of 
rapture and clouds of metaphor, communicated to one man, 
signifying uncertainly, told imperfectly after the manner of 
raptures and prophetic ecstasies, intended to very distant 
purposes, never so extended by his own nation, or used to 
any such end, should yet prevail with Christians (who are, 
or ought to be, infinitely removed from such a childish 
religion and baby tricks) more than an express command- 
ment, and natural and essential reason, and the practice both 
of all the Jews and the best Christians. There is nothing in 
the world, though never so bad, but by witty and resolved 
men may have more colours laid upon it, to set it out, than 
this can from this pretension. 4. The vision itself, if it were 
expressed in picture as it is set down, would be a most 
strange production of art, and a horrid representation of 
nature ; and unless something were supposed which is not 
expressed, it would be a strange new nothing. For 'the 
Ancient of Days' does, by no violence, signify an old man; 
for it being a representment of eternity, is the worst of all 
expressed by an old man ; for that which is old, is ready to 


vanish away; and nothing is more contrary to eternity. 
Again, here is no mention of the appearance of a man. 
There is, indeed, mention of a * head,' but neither of man 
nor beast, bird nor fly, expressed ; and hair like ' pure wool,' 
but in what it is like, excepting only the purity, is not told, 
nor can be imagined : after this there is nothing but ' a 
throne of flames and wheels of fire ; ' and all this together 
would make a strange image, a metaphor to express eternity, 
a head of I know not what light without substance, 
visibility without a figure, a top without a bottom, the 
whiteness of wool instead of the substance of hair, and a 
seat upon wheels, and all in flames and fire : that it should 
ever enter into the head or heart of an instructed man to 
think that the great, the immense, the invisible, the infinite 
God of heaven, that fills heaven, and earth, and hell, should 
be represented in image or picture by such a thing, by such 
a nothing, is as strange and prodigious as the combination of 
all the daughters of fear, and sleep, and ignorance. 5. After 
this vision of Daniel, it was, in the Church of the Jews, 
esteemed as unlawful as ever to make an image of God ; and 
by this the primitive Christians did not believe a warrant or 
confidence could be taken to do any thing of that nature : 
and they that nowadays think otherwise have a new under- 
standing and a new religion, defying a commandment, and 
walking by a dream ; and are such, whom a precept cannot 
draw, but they follow what they understand not, and what 
was not intended to conduct their religion, but to signify 
only the events and great changes of the world. 6. If be- 
cause mention is made of ' the Ancient of Days' in Daniel, 
it were lawful to picture God like an old man, we might as 
well make a door and say it is Christ, or a vine, and call it 
our Master, or a thief, and call it the day of judgment ; 
a metaphorical or mystical expression may be the veil of a 
mysterious truth, but cannot pass into a sign and significa- 
tion of it : itself may become a hieroglyphic, when it is 
painted, but not an image, which is a fwo<p*i tldt-/.bg, and the 
most proper representation of any thing that can be seen, 
and is not present. They that paint a child to signify eter- 
nity, do it better than they who, by an old man, signify him 
that can be no older to-morrow than he was yesterday. But 
by this I only intend to note the imprudence and indecency 


of the thing : the unlawfulness is upon other accounts, which 
I have reckoned. 

15. Concerning the humanity of our Saviour, that being a 
creature he might be depicted, I mean it was naturally 
capable of it ; it was the great instrument of many actions, 
it conversed with mankind above thirty years together, it 
was the subject of great changes, and the matter of a long 
story, and the conduit of many excellent instructions ; and 
therefore might without all question be described, as well as 
Caesar's, or Meletius, Mark Antony, or the kings of the 
Gentiles. It might be done: and the question being here 
only of the making or having of it, abstractedly from all 
other appendages or collateral considerations, I need say no 
more of it under this title ; but that it is neither impious nor 
unreasonable of itself to have, or to make the picture or 
image of Christ's humanity, or rather of his human body. 
For against this there is neither reason nor religion, and if it 
be made accidentally unlawful, that is not of present consi- 

16. But for the usual image of the Holy Ghost in the form 
of a dove, the pretence is great and fairer ; no less than the 
words of Scripture. For, in this instance, that reason ceases 
for which God did prohibit the making of his image; for 
here they did not only hear a voice, but also they saw a 
shape ; for the Holy Ghost descended in the likeness of a 
dove : ev eu^anxf sidti, " in a bodily shape." So St. Luke. 
To this I answer, that the Holy Ghost did not appear in the 
shape of a dove at all ; but the dove mentioned in the story 
relates only to the manner of his descending, and hovering 
over Christ. And this, 1. appears by the words in St. Mat- 
thew, s7bs TO HvtZfta, TOV Qsov xarafiaTvov, uffsi Ksotffrtgav, he saw 
the Spirit of God * descending like a dove/ that is, as doves 
use to descend, hovering and overshadowing of him. 2. The 
word &>/, which signifies an imperfect resemblance, or a 
limited similitude, does not infer the direct shape of a dove ; 
but something of it ; the motion or the quantity, the hovering 
or the lighting, like that of his appearance on the day of 
Pentecost: cloven tongues, uffti wgbg, " as it were of fire;"' 
that is, something of it ; to shine, it may be but not to burn ; 

Acts, ii. 3. 


to appear bright, but not to move. 3. This appears yet 
more plainly in the words of St. Luke, Kal x,ara/3^va/ ri 
TIvtvfAa ro ayiov rfw/tar/xw t"8ti, uffii vegitfrtgav sir' avrov' " The 
Holy Ghost did descend in a bodily shape, as a dove upon 
him ;" where ' the bodily shape,' cannot mean the bodily 
shape of a dove, for then it must have been ues) xtgicrtgas, 
' as of a dove,' like that of the Acts, use) vu^s ; but it must 
wholly be referred to jtarajS^jca/ : he ' descended' as a dove 
uses to do : but then for tfw/iar/x&v eTdog, * the bodily shape,' 
it was nothing but a body of light ; the greatest visibility, 
called by the apostle," /tgyaXoT^^s doga, " the excellent 
glory :" which, indeed, was the usual investiture of God's 
messengers in their appearances and visibilities ; and that 
there appeared a fire in Jordan at that time, Justin Martyr 
against Tryphon the Jew affirms expressly. 4. That this 
similitude was relative to the motion, or the manner, of a 
dove's descent, is so much the more probable, because this 
acceptation and understanding of it is more agreeable to the 
design and purpose of the Holy Ghost's descending. For 
by ' flying' the Jews did use, in their symbolical theology, to 
signify a Divine influx or inspiration, saith Rabbi Jaccai, 
upon the ninth of Daniel : the descent, therefore, of the Holy 
Ghost, in the manner of a dove's flight, signifies the gift of 
the Spirit of God to his holy Son ; who received him not by 
measures, but the fulness of him : and from his fulness we 
all receive our portions. 

17.1 cannot deny but that, amongst learned men, there is 
great difference of apprehension concerning it ; and the 
generality of men, without examining it, suppose the Holy 
Ghost to have descended, being invested with the direct 
shape of a dove ; en&dovrog sv t'ibti Kigiartgas Tlviuf^arog, SO 
Justin Martyr : for he expresses the words otherwise than all 
the four evangelists ; they all say, uaii tftgtangav, meaning, 
* as a dove descends ;' he changes the case, and makes it to 
be the shape or ' form of a dove ;' ipae/ta, ogvdos, so Origen 
calls it : ' the phantasm, or appearance of a bird ;' yet I 
will for the present suppose it so, because the ancients did 
generally believe so. But then I answer to the objection, 
That, 1. although the ancients did suppose it so yet, in the 

n 2 Peter, i. 17. 


sixth council, that at Constantinople/ it is expressly for- 
hidden to depict Christ like a lamb, or the Holy Spirit like a 
dove. 2. Suppose the fancy of the ancients to have some 
reality in it, yet it amounted to no more than this, it was 
nothing but a light of fire effigiated into such a resemblance ; 
or, like a bright cloud which represents strange figures 
imperfectly, any thing according to the heart or fancy of 
them that behold it ; and therefore is not so imitable, as if it 
were a direct and proper appearance : so the gospel of the 
Nazarenes expresses it, xal e-j6i>s c^/eXa/i-vJ/g rbv roVov <pug [Lfya,' 
" presently a great light did shine round about the place ;" 
and their apprehension of a dazzling light in such a resem- 
blance is but an ill warrant to make a standing figure and 
proper imagery. 2. Tertullian* supposes it was really and 
properly a very dove indeed ; and if so, the whole business 
is at an end ; for any dove may be pictured, but the Holy 
Ghost must not be pictured in that shape, though his errand 
and design was ministered to by a dove. 3. And that, 
indeed, is the proper and full solution of this objection. 
Supposing that the shape of a dove did appear, yet this no 
way represented him, or was to be used as a sign of him ; 
and, therefore, it is observable, when God* had told the 
Baptist how he should know the Messias, and that the Holy 
Ghost should consign and signify him, he makes no 
mention of a dove, but of descending only ; not only plainly 
intimating that the mention of a dove was for the similitude 
of motion, not of shape, but also to signify that the Holy 
Ghost himself was not at all to be represented as a dove. 
But then, if there was the shape of a dove, as the ancients 
suppose, it looks downwards, not upwards, and was a symbol 
not to signify any thing of the Divinity, or the personality of 
the Holy Spirit ; but to signify something in Christ, or in 
Christ's body the Church, to represent the excellence and 
sweetness of Christ and of the Church, y his perfection and 
our duty, the state of his institution and of our religion ; 
and so they who thus teach of the apparition of a dove, 
express the symbol. The dove was to represent that great 
meekness which was in Christ, and which he would insert 
into his institution, as no small part of a Christian's duty ; 

T Can. 83. w Lib. de Came Christi. * John, i. 33. 1 Isai. rlii. 1-3. 


which our blessed Saviour was pleased also to express y in 
the same similitude, '* Be as harmless as doves." Philo says 
that, in the Jews' discipline, a dove signifies wisdom, that is, 
a good, a wise, a gentle, and debonair comportment, not 
the severity of retirement, and a philosophical life, but of a 
civil, sweet, and obliging conversation. Some say that this 
dove did relate to that dove which signified to Noah, by an 
olive-branch of peace, that God was again reconciled to the 
world ; and so did it please God to use the like symbol, 
when he would signify that reconcilement which was by 
Christ to be effected, and of which the other was but a weak 
representment, and type, or figure. The world was now 
also to be renewed at the appearance of this dove ; but, 
because this no way relates to the person or nature of 
the Holy Ghost, it can no way hence be inferred that the 
Holy Ghost may be represented by an image. This appa- 
rition, if it was at all, was symbolical of something below, 
not representative of any thing above : and in that sense, 
and to that purpose, I do not doubt but it may be lawful to 
make a picture of the dove that was seen, if, I say, it was at 
all ; and of the fiery tongues sitting upon the apostles ; for 
these were not representative of the nature or person of the 
Holy Ghost, but descriptive of the impression that from the 
Holy Ghost was made upon them ; and of this nature is the 
expression of the Baptist : " He shall baptize you with the 
Holy Ghost and with fire ;'' that is, from his baptism, or by 
his imimssion, you shall receive graces and gifts, whose effect 
is properly expressed by fire, which also shall be its symbol. 
18. And after all this, if it should please God, any person 
of the blessed and most holy Trinity should appear in any 
visible shape, that shape might be depicted, of that shape an 
image might be made ; I mean it might naturally, it might 
if it were done for lawful ends, and unless a commandment 
were to the contrary ; and, therefore, so long as God keeps 
himself within the secret recesses of his sanctuary, and the 
majesty of his invisibility, so long it is plain he intends the 
very first sense and words of his commandment : but, if he 
should cancel the great reason of his commandment, and 
make that, by an act of his own, to become possible, which, 

i Matt. x. 16. 


in the nature of things, is impossible, that is, that an 
image can be made of God ; I should believe that God did 
intend to dispense in that part of the commandment, and 
declare that he intended it only for a temporary band. For 
if the reason of the commandment were taken away, either 
the commandment also ceases to oblige, or must be bound 
upon us by another reason, or a new sanction, or, at least, a 
new declaration ; or else it would follow, that then his visible 
appearance would become a snare to mankind. But because 
he hath not yet appeared visibly, and hath, by no figure or 
idea, represented the Godhead ; and that it is a truth, which 
must last as long as Christian religion lasts, that " No man 
can see God," therefore it follows that it is at no hand 
lawful to make an image of God, or relating to the Divinity. 
If a dove be made, it must not be intended to represent the 
Holy Ghost ; for besides that no dove did appear, 2 nor shape 
of a dove, yet, if it did, it related not to the person of the 
Holy Ghost, but to the impression made upon the person on 
whom the light descended. And if the figure of the crucifix 
be made, or of Jesus in the flesh, it is wholly relative to the 
creature, not to him as God ; for that is impious, and unrea- 
sonable, and impossible to be done in any natural proportion. 
And the like also is to be said of those expressions in Scrip- 
ture, of the ' hand' of God, his ' eye,' his * arm;' which 
words, although they are written, yet they cannot, ought not, 
to be painted. I do not doubt that it is lawful to paint or 
engrave an eye, or a hand, but not an eye or hand of God, 
that is, we may not intend to represent God by such sculp- 
ture or picture, because the Scripture does not speak them 
to that end, that by them we may conceive any thing of 
God : for, as Hesselius well notes, these and other like 
expressions are intended to represent some action of God ; 

1 Si quis dicat, quod Spiritus S. in columba apparuit, et Pater, in Veteri 
Testamento, sub aliquibus corporalibus formis, ideoque possunt et illi per 
imagines repraesentari ; dicendum quod illae formae corporales non fuerunt a Patre 
vel Spiritu Sancto assumptae, et ideo repra:sentatione eorum per imagines, nonest 
repraesentatio personae Divinae ; sed repraesentatio illius formae secundum se ; 
propterea non debetur ei aliqua reverentia, sicut nee illis formis secundum se. 
Nee ilia? formae fuerunt ad reprassentandas Divinas personas, sed ad repraesen- 
tandum effectus, quos Divinae personas faciebant in rebus. Durand. in 3. Sent. 
Dist. 9, q. 2, n. 15. 


such as is that of David, a who brings in God, " excitatum 
tanquam dormientem, tanquam potentem crapulatum a 
circo ; awakened out of sleep, and as a giant refreshed, 
filled, gorged, with wine:" by which, if any man shall 
represent God in picture, his saying, ' it may as well be 
painted as written,' will not acquit him from insufferable 

19. Now this which I have discoursed, is evidently ac- 
cording to the doctrine and practice both of the Jews and 
primitive Christians. Concerning the Jews, Tacitus 6 says 
of them, " Mente sola,unumquenumen intelligunt: profanos, 
qui Deum imagines mortalibus materiis in species hominum 
effingant ; They acknowledge but one Deity, whom they 
understand in their mind only ; esteeming all them to be 
profane who efform the images of their gods of corruptible 
matter into the shapes of men." c And the testimony of 
St. Clemens d of Alexandria, is very full to this purpose : 
" Deum, ex Mosis disciplina, nee hominis effigie, nee ulla alia 
re repraesentari ; God, by the law of Moses, was not to be 
represented in the shape of a man, or any other figure : " and 
for the Christians, that they also understood themselves to 
be bound by the same law, to the same religious abstaining 
from making of images of God, is openly and generally 
taught by the doctors of the Christian Church for the four 
first ages together ; as without scruple appears in the express 
words of Origen,* Tertullian/ Eusebius, 5 Athanasius, h St. 
Jerome,' St. Austin, k Theodoret, 1 Damascen, m and the synod 
of Constantinople, as is reported in the sixth action of the 
second Nicene Council; the sense of all which, together with 
his own, Polydore Virgil" thus represents : " Cum Deus 
ubique praesens sit, nihil a principio post homines natos 
stultius visum est, quam ejus simulacrum pingere ; Since 
the world began, never was any thing more foolish than to 
picture God, who is present every where ; " for this is 

1 Psalm Ixxviii. 65. b Hist. r. 5. Oberlin, vol. ii. p. 326. Lond. ed. 

c Idem etiam videre est apud Diodor. Sicul. 

d Stromat. 1. e D. 7. cont. Cels. 

r De Coron. Mil. f Lib. i. c. 6. Praep. Evang. 

h Oral. cont. Gentes. l In c. xl. Isai. 

k De Fide et Symbol, c. vii. ' In Deut. q. 1. 

10 Lib. iv. de Orth. Fide, c. 17. n Lib. ii. c. 23, de Invent. 


(according to the sharp reproof of the apostle) " to change 
the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude, tv 
o,uotu/j,a,Ti eb.6vo;, (so it is in the Greek ) of an image of a cor- 
ruptible man, and of birds and beasts," &c., than which words 
nothing can be plainer to condemn the picturing God : a 
thing which the very heathens did abominate. 

Sed nulla effigies, simulacrave nota deorum 
Majestate locum et sacro implevere timore, 

said Silius Italicus P of the temple of Cadiz ; ' they had no 
images, no pictures of the gods ; but the house was filled 
with majesty and a holy fear.' And this they did not of 
ignorance, nor of custom, but out of reason and wise dis- 
course. When Seneca entreated his friend Lucilius to make 
himself worthy of God, he tells him how : " Finget autem 
non auro, non argento : non potest ex hac materia imago Dei 
fingi similis ; Not with gold and silver; for of these an 
image like to God can never be made." And, therefore, 

O * 

Tacitus says of the Germans, that they " nee cohibere parie- 
tibus deos, neque in ullam humani oris speciem adsimilare, ex 
magnitudine coelestium arbitrantur ; q they think they do 
not know the nature of the gods, if they should thrust them 
into walls, or depict them in the resemblance of a man or 
woman." Nullum simulacrum finxisse antiquitatem," said 
Macrobius/ " The old world never made an image" (mean- 
ing of God) : " quia summus Deus nataque ex eo mens, sicut 
ultra animam, ita supra naturam sunt, quo nihil fas est de 
fabulis pervenire ; because the supreme God, and the mind 
that is born of him, as it is beyond our soul, so it is beyond 
all nature, and it is not fit that fables and fictions should be 
addressed to him. 

Nulla auri effigies, nulli commissa metallo, 
Forma Dei mentes habitare et pectora gaudet : 

* God dwells in minds and hearts of good men, not in images 
and metals.' 

20. The next question is of greater effect; and, though 
the answer of it must needs be concluded from the former, yet 
because it hath some considerations of its own, and proper 
arguments, it is worth a short inquiry. 

Rom. i. 23. P in. 30. Ruperti, vol. i. p. 177. 

' Cap. ix. Oberlin. Lond. ed. vol. ii. p. 360. r Lib. i. in Somn. Scip. c. 2. 


Quest. Whether it be lawful for Christians to worship 
God by an image ? 

21. Concerning which the best ground of resolution is the 
commandment ; which, it is certain, the Church of the Jews 
did understand so, that they accounted it idolatry to worship 
God in any image whatsoever ; thus the Israelites were 
idolaters when they made the golden calf, for so they pro- 
claimed, " These are thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee 
out of the land of Egypt ; and to-morrow is a solemnity to 
Jehovah," said Aaron. The calf they intended as an image 
of their God, and by it they intended to worship him ; which 
is not improbable, says Bellarmine ; which is certainly true, 
said Ferus ; s and which is affirmed by the Spirit of God ; 
" they changed their glory into the similitude of a calf that 
eateth hay ; " that is, they represented God, who was their 
glory, by a golden calf. And concerning Micah,* though his 
mother made an image, yet that it was for the worshipping of 
the God of Israel, appears in all the story ; for upon this 
account he hoped that the Lord would bless him, he took a 
Levite for his priest, he asked counsel of the Lord ; yet these 
also he calls his gods, which were but the images of God, 
by which it appears that he was an idolater, because he 
worshipped the true God by an image, which he had for- 
bidden. The same was the case of Gideon, who made a 
covenant with them, that God should be their king ; yet he 
made an ephod ; that is, instituted a forbidden service to 
him ; which thing became a snare to his house ; and being 
a prevarication of this commandment, was, in its nature, an 
idolatrous worship ; and yet it was but a superstitious or 
false worship of the true God : and this is affirmed by the 
Christian doctors. " Non vult Deus in lapidibus coli," said 
St. Ambrose;" " God will not be worshipped in stones or 
graven images :" and St. Austin" affirms, that God in his 
commandment did prohibit, " ne quis colat ullam imaginem 
Dei nisi unam eandem quae cum ipso est Christus ; that 
we should worship no image of God but him that is the lively 
image of his person, that is, Jesus Christ:" and this is so 
affirmed by all the fathers, so confirmed by the doctrine and 

In c. vii. Acts. * Judges, xvii. 

u Ep. 31. ad Val. * Ep. 119. ad Jaiuiar. 


practice of the Church, so adhered to by all the doctors of 
the Jews, that Vasquez finds himself constrained to confess, 
" Clare deducitur, non licuisse turn verum Deum in aliqua 
imagine venerari ; It is clearly consequept, that then it 
was not lawful to worship the true God in any image or 

22. But it is said, that though it was not then, yet now it 
is : for that was only a temporary precept, relative to the Jews, 
because of their proneness to idolatry. So Catharinus y 
affirms, " totum hoc praeceptum esse positivum, non morale; 
this whole commandment is positive, not moral : " for, 
however something related to the Jews, yet, by this com- 
mandment, is only forbidden to worship the images of false 
gods, or the image of the true God with Divine worship. 

23. Against this I have many things to say : 1 . That idol- 
atry is a sin against the law of nature, or of prime religion ; 
therefore whatsoever was idolatry in the Jews, is the same sin 
in the Christians. Indeed, in the intercourses between man 
and man, though the relative duty be bound upon us by the 
commandment of God, yet the instances can be altered by 
human authority and consent ; as new kinds of incest, 
several instances of murder, of treason, and the like ; but 
where not only the law, but the instances also, are of God's 
appointment, what is once is always, unless God change the 
particular, which he never did in the present question. One 
case there is, in which the particulars even of the present 
article can vanish ; viz. when a particular is commanded 
apparently for a transient reason, and hath in it no essential 
reason, no natural rectitude ; but the worshipping of God by 
an image is against natural reason, as I have proved by the 
unlawfulness and unreasonableness of making an image of 
God, and shall further prove in the sequel ; therefore, 
although, by reason of the Jews' proneness to direct and 
prime idolatry, the commandment put new and accidental 
necessities (I mean the not having or making any pictures), 
yet the prohibition of worshipping God by an image having 
a natural and essential rectitude and conformity to the sim- 
plicity of a natural, and to the spirituality of the Christian 
religion, it cannot be changed as the fancies or the interests 

> Ut vitl. est ap. Bellar. de Imag. 


of men shall require ; and of this, besides the apparent rea- 
sonableness of the thing, we have an express testimony from 
Origen. 2 " Caeterum Christiani homines et Judaei sibi tem- 
perant ab his propter illud legis, ' Dominum Deum timebis;' 
Item propter illud, * Non erunt tibi dii alieni praeter ine, et 
non facies tibi ipsi simulacrum/ &c. aliaque multa his 
similia, quae adeo nos prohibent ab aris et simulacris, ut etiam 
emori jubeant citius quam contaminemus nostram de Deo 
fidem talibus impietatibus ; Both Christians and Jews 
abstain from these worshippings, because the law says, ' Thou 
shalt have no other gods but me ; ' and ' Thou shalt not 
make to thyself any graven image;' and for many other things 
like these, which so severely restrain us from altars and 
images, that they command us to die rather than to pollute 
our faith of God with such impieties." The sum of which is, 
that Christians, as well as Jews, understood themselves bound 
equally by this commandment ; and they were to suffer 
death rather than image-worship. 

24. (2.) To worship false gods, or to give Divine honour 
to an image which is not God, is all one kind of formal 
idolatry ; they may differ materially, as the worshipping 
of silver does from bowing the head to gold, but they 
are formally the same thing ; for it is a making that to be 
our God which is no God ; and this is sufficiently forbidden 
in the first commandment. Now since there are more sins 
against that commandment than one, let us suppose that 
the two first (as we reckon them) are but one ; yet the next 
must be that which is forbidden in the explication ; that is, 
to worship the true God with a false image ; it is making 
God to be like an idol by representing him in the same cheap 
impossible way ; by using him like the false gods, by making 
his image to become an idol, by giving him a forbidden 
hated worship, by honouring him with a lie; all which, if they 
be not great violations of the commandment to which they 
do belong, then there is but one kind of sin there forbidden, 
and this is an act of so great simplicity and incommunica- 
bility, that it hath neither brother nor sister, mother nor 
daughter, kiff nor kin, analogy nor correspondencies, ad- 
dresses nor degrees : if it have not, why are so many parti- 

z Lib. vii. cont. Cels. 


culars reduced to this commandment by all casuists, friends 
or foes, in this article ? If it have, this superstitious and 
forbidden worship being here named in the commandment, 
and standing next to the prime idolatry, must, at least, have 
a degree of the same obliquity. 

25. (3.) He that makes an image of God and worships it, 
gives it the worship of God, whom it represents, or a dif- 
ferent. If he gives a different, and consequently a less wor- 
ship, he does not worship God in the image ; but his worship 
is such as it is terminated on the image, and then comes not 
into this inquiry : it is no more than loving a bird for 
Lesbia's sake, or valuing a pendant for her sake that gave it 
me; and this may be a civil valuation, and it is to be esti- 
mated according to its excess or temper. But if by the 
image, I mean to worship God, then I join them together in 
the act of adoration, and make them the same integral object ; 
but then I give to both the same worship; and, therefore, 
unless they can both be united into an identity, 1 must needs 
give Divine worship to that which is no God, which is direct 
idolatry. If an image of God pass the worship which I give 
unto God, then it goes first to the image, then to God, there- 
fore it must needs be the same ; for that which passes from 
the image to God, must not be less than what is fit to be 
given to God ; but if it be the same, then it ought not at all 
to pass upon that : if it be less than Divine, it must not be 
given to God ; if it be not less, it must' not pass upon that 
which is not God. If it be less, it is impiety when it is 
offered to the prototype ; if it be the same, and not less, it is 
idolatry when it is offered to the image. 

26. But I need not make use of both parts of the dilemma; 
for it is certain, that every relative worship must be the same 
in the middle and the end ; and it is confessed by most of 
those who worship God and his Christ, and his saints, by 
images, that the same honour is given to both. " Eundern 
honorem deberi imagini et exemplar!," says Almain ; " ac 
proinde imagines Sanctse Trinitatis, Christi, et Crucis, cultu 
latriae adorandas esse ; The images of the Trinity, of Christ, 
and of the Cross, are to be adored with Divine worship." 
The same is the opinion of Alensis, Aquinas, Buonaventure, 
Albertus, Richardus,Capreolus, Cajetan, Coster, Valentia,the 
Jesuits of Cologne, Triers, and Mentz, who approved Coster's 



opinion, and indeed, generally, of all the Roman schools, 
if we may believe a great man amongst them ; " Constans 
est theologorum sententia, imaginem eodem honore et cultu 
honorari et coli quo colitur id cujus est imago," said Azorius : a 
and he supposes this to be the mind of the Council of Trent, 
and insinuated by the second Nicene ; and certainly he was 
in the right. For, though the Council of Trent used much cau- 
tion in their expression of this invidious article, and expressed 
no particular honour, but that due honour and worship be 
given to them, yet, when at the latter end of the decree, it 
approves the second Nicene Council, and refers to that in 
the article ; it is plain that the Council of Trent intended such 
honour and worship to be due, as the Council of Frankfort 
said was not due, neither is it to be imagined they durst 
contradict so constant an opinion, or openly recede from their 
great Aquinas. They have amongst them many fine devices, 
to make this seem what it is not ; but that which is suffi- 
cient, is this, that no distinction, no artifice, will file the 
hardness off from this : for, whereas, the great thing that 
they say, is this, that this worship being not for the image, 
but for God's sake passed through the image, does not give 
Divine honours to the image. But I reply : Is it a Divine 
honour that is given to the image or no ? is it the same that 
is given to God, or is it another? If it be the same, then, 
though it be not for the image, but for God, yet it is for God 
that the Divine worship is given to the image, that is, it is 
for God's sake that what is due to God alone, is given to that 
which is not God, that is, for God's sake they commit idol- 
atry. But if it be not the same, then how do they worship 
God by the image? "Idem est motus ad imaginem et 
exemplar," says Aristotle ; and upon this account they sup- 
pose what is done to the image, accrues to God ; but, then, 
as they must take care that nothing be given to God that is 
less than himself, I mean that he be not worshipped with less 
than a Divine worship ; so they may also remember, that by 
one motion and act of worship, they cannot give less to the 
image than they do to God : whatsoever is less than another 
is not the same with another ; if, therefore, the worship given 
to the image, be in any sense less than that which is given 

Institut. Moral, part. i. lib. is. c. 6. 


to God, then it is not the same ; if it be not the same, then 
by the same motion, by the same act of worship, there are 
two kinds of worship given, which is a contradiction, that one 
should be two ; and also evacuates their great pretence of 
the reasonableness or possibility of doing worship to God by 
an image, because upon this account the same does not pass 
at once to both. 

27. (4.) A good man is more an image of God, than any 
painter or engraver can make ; but if we give Divine honours 
to a good man, it were idolatry ; therefore, much more, if we 
give it to an image. I use this instance to take off the trifle 
of worship 'relative,' and worship ' terminative ;' for if we 
should offer sacrifice to a man, build temples and altars to 
him over against his doors, burn lamps, make vows, appoint 
holydays, processions, litanies, institute fraternities, give him 
the appellatives of honour which we usually ascribe to God, 
it would not serve our turns to say, ' we do it to God whose 
image this man is, and we intend the honour to God finally ; 
there it rests, it only passes through the good man, to be 
united to the glories of God ; ' it were idolatry without all 
contradiction. I find that acts of humility have been done 
to the poor, for Christ's sake, and the actions were referred 
to Christ, just as all other acts of charity and alms used to be ; 
but if Divine honour be done to them, it is so far from being 
entertained by God as the correlative of that worship, that 
it is a dishonour to him ; he being curious of his own pecu- 
liar, and having given no warrant, no instance, that can 
amount to any thing of that nature, and he will be wor- 
shipped, as Plato's expression is, rw /ia>Aoi/ agsaxovri rgo-rui' 
"in that way" (not that we choose, but) " that he best 
likes." He that will pass worship to God by the mediation 
and interposition of a creature, must do it by using that 
creature in all the endearments and regards, for God's sake, 
of which it is capable. Thus, ' by reverencing the gray head, 
and rising up to him,' we do honour to the great Father of 
men and angels ; by relieving the poor, we do honour to 
Christ ; but neither is Christ honoured by us, if we have 
made a rich present to a king for Christ's sake, or call a 
poor beggar, " My Lord ; " but when, for God's sake, we 
pass those regards to several estates of men, which are the 
best usages which prudently they can require, then the 


good we do to them, whether it be honour or relief, relates 
to God ; but for God's sake to give Divine honours to a man, 
is, as if to honour the master, we made his servant equal ; 
or, out of reverence to the body, we should wear the shoe 
upon our head. And this argument must needs conclude 
against the worshippers of images ; for, although Vasquez, 
and I think he alone of all the world, owns the worst that 
this argument can infer, and thinks it lawful to give Divine 
worship relatively or transitively to a man ; yet when that 
whole church excuses their worshipping of saints, by saying 
they give only such veneration to them as is proportioned to 
them, not ' latria,' but ' dulia,' that is, not Divine worship in 
any sense, for so they would be understood to speak and do ; 
it must needs be certain, that this argument is not to be 
answered, nor yet to be outfaced. However, this is certain, 
that when the Arians, who believed Christ to be a mere 
creature, though they could not deny but that (according to 
the express words of Scripture) he was the express and 
bright image of his Father's glory, yet because they gave to 
Christ Divine honours for his relation sake to his Father the 
Eternal God, they were by the fathers of the Church expressly 
called idolaters, as is to be seen in the first, third, and fourth 
orations of St. Athanasius against the Arians, and in St. 
Cyril in Job. lib. ix. c. 41, and divers other places ; and what- 
ever Vasquez, or any man else, is pleased to think of it, yet 
St. John was twice rejected by an angel when he would have 
given Divine honour to him, when he would have worshipped 
him ; and yet that angel represented God, and was the servant 
of Jesus. And upon this account we may worship every 
creature : every fly, every tulip, even the onions of Egypt ; 
for every plant is more an image of God than a dead piece of 
metal or marble can be : 

Praesentemque refert quaelibet herba Deum. 

And it is in images, as it is in the matter of oaths, of which 
our blessed Saviour said, that " he that swears by heaven, or 
by the earth, by the temple, or by the gold, it is all a case : " it 
all alike refers to God, and does him dishonour, if the matter 
be vain or false ; so it is in images : every creature of God 
represents him, and is capable of transmitting honour to him, 
as a wooden image : and yet because the best images of God 


are not susceptive of Divine honours so much as by relation, 
much less shall the worse images : and if it be idolatry to 
give such to a man, though with an intuition upon God, 
to do so to a dead image, which hath less likeness to God, 
cannot be put off by a distinction and a vain imagination. 
I will not aggravate the evil practices or doctrines which are 
in the Church of Rome, concerning this question, but it is 
obvious to observe, that although this distinction of ' rela- 
tive' and ' terminative ' is invented by superstitious persons 
to make the question hard, and to themselves greater oppor- 
tunity of quieting the scruples of tender persons : yet they 
do give, and openly profess to give, Divine honours to that 
which is no god, which I thus demonstrate. The cross on 
which Christ suffered, is but a creature ; but to the image of 
this they give a relative Divine honour ; therefore to the 
exemplar, which is that cross whereof the other are but 
images, they terminate the Divine honour. So Jacobus 
Almain, in the words a little before quoted: "The same 
honour is owing to the image and the exemplar; and there- 
fore the images of the Trinity, and of Christ, and of the 
Cross, are to be adored with the worship of ' latria ;' that is, 
Divine." To this purpose is that clause in the ' Pontifical,' b 
published by the authority of Clement the Eighth ; " Crux 
legati quia debetur ei latria, erit a dextris ; The legate's 
cross must be on the right hand ; because ' latria,' or Divine 
honour, is due to it." Now this, being the image, can 
challenge but this Divine honour relatively ; but the cross 
that Helena found at Jerusalem, was the exemplar ; therefore 
to that the Divine worship is due, ' ultimate et terminative : ' 
it rests there ; which is as downright idolatry as can be 
defined. But Aquinas proves it ought to be so by this 
argument, ' that in which we place the hope of our salvation, 
to that we exhibit the worship of ' latria,' or ' Divine worship : ' 
but in the cross we place the hope of our salvation, for so 
the Church sings, 

O Crux ave, spes unica, 
Hoc passionis tempore : 
Auge piis justitiam, 
Reisque dona veniam. 

b Edit. Rom. p. 672. 


"All hail, O Cross, who art our only hope in this time of 
our suffering : increase the righteousness of the righteous, 
and give pardon to the guilty." I could add many more c 
things to the same purpose ; but because I intend not an 
accusation of any one, but institution to every one that 
needs it, I shall only observe, that this distinction is used 
with them as miracles and gifts of tongues were ; not for 
them that believe, but for them that believe not ; so is this, 
for strangers and them that make objections, not for the 
obedient that worship images and break the commandment : 
for they must, or may do more, than give a relative worship : 
but yet, because it concerns us and them, I add this obser- 

28. (5.) That if Divine worship, or ' latria,' be, in any sense, 
given to an image, no distinction can save it harmless : for if 
it be given at all, it is not changed in kind, by being altered 
in circumstance. It is that kind of worship, which all the 
world understands to be proper to God. Now, whether it be 
for itself or for any other thing, is nothing but an inquiry, for 
what cause this incommunicable worship is communicated 
to them ; that is, a looking after the cause of a thing, which 
no cause can legitimate ; and whether this be proper or 
improper, yet still it is idolatry in one of the senses ; whether 
it be direct or indirect, it still gives but an appellative, and 
specificates the idolatry : for that which, in its whole nature, 
is unlawful and unnatural, cannot be lawful in a certain 
respect. " Idololatrae dicuntur, qui simulacris earn servi- 
tutem exhibent quae debetur Deo," said St. Austin : d "He 
who gives that to an image which is due to God, is an 
idolater." But he who answers that he does that thing but 
in this or this manner, confesses the thing done and tells 

* Salve sancta facies nostri Redemptoris, 
In qua nitet species Divini splendoris, 
Impressa panniculo nivei candoris. 
Salve vultus Domini, imago beata, 
Nos deduc ad propriam, 6 foelix figura, 
Ad videndum faciem CLristi, quze est pura. 

Ave ferrum triumphale, foelix hasta. 
Nos auiore per te fixi saucia. 

d Lib. i. de Trin. o. 6. 


you how : but if the manner destroys the thing, then it is 
not the same worship ; and then what need the distinction of 
the manner, which must suppose the same matter ; but if the 
manner does not destroy the thing, then for all the distinc- 
tions it is idolatry. 

29. (6.) I consider, that, in the first commandment, where 
atheism, and polytheism, and allotheism, are forbidden di- 
rectly and principally, and whatever is like it, or even with, 
or under it ; the preface or the reason of it is expressed by 
God : "I am the Lord thy God ;" plainly declaring, that 
whatsoever is introduced against that commandment, is also 
against that reason : God is not our God, if we acknowledge 
none, or if we accept of many, or any other ; so that, by this 
precept and upon this account, idolatry in the object is 
forbidden. But in the next precept, or (if it be the same 
with this) in the next periods of this commandment, there 
is another thing forbidden upon another reason : " Thou 
shalt not worship any graven image, for I the Lord thy God 
am a jealous God," meaning, that as his being our God 
infers that none else must be made our God, or have Divine 
honours done to it, so the superaddition of this attribute 
and appellative of God, that as he is our God, so also he is a 
jealous God, in this very matter of intercourse with us, infers 
that we must not only do what he bids, but also in his own 
way ; the thing and the manner too are taken care of. And 
if he had, in the second precept, only forbidden Divine 
worship to be given to any artifice or to any creature, the 
proper reason for it had been, " For I am the Lord thy God ;" 
but when to other words he puts another reason, it is certain 
it must mean something new, and not signified in the first 
periods. But then, because the worshipping of any image 
of God with Divine worship for the sake of the exemplar is 
that which is nearest and likest the manner of the Gentiles; 
and does insensibly steal the heart of man away, and de- 
presses our great thoughts of the eternal immense God into 
the circumscription of any image, and draws the mind from 
spiritual to material intercourses, and therefore does, by 
immediate consequence, lessen the honour of God and the 
propriety of the Divine worship, that all this should be 
forbidden is justly inferred from the reason ; for of these 
things no better reason in the world can be given, than that 


Cod is a jealous God, and will not have his honour, directly 
or indirectly, given to any thing to whom himself is not 
pleased expressly to impart it; and, therefore, there is a 
natural proportion in the reason to the prohibition : for since 
it is usual in Scripture to call idolatry by the name of forni- 
cation or adultery, God is pleased here also to forbid that 
manner of worship, which he accounts adulterous, and de- 
clares he will not endure it, because he is jealous : and let it 
be imagined, what can be the effect of that reason ? some- 
thing special must be apportioned to it, lest it be to no 
purpose : but that images be not taken for very God, that 
they may not finally and for themselves receive Divine honour, 
is the effect of the first reason, and of the first precept : 
whatsoever is next to this, must be what is also next ex- 
pressed, that is, not that images be not worshipped for God ; 
but that, in the worshipping the true God, which is com- 
manded in the first period, we do not bow the head and 
knee before images, which is forbidden in the second periods. 
And if men were, in their proportion, as jealous of their duty, 
and of avoiding God's anger, and escaping the Divine judg- 
ments, and of preserving their eternal interest, as God is of 
his honour ; they would never so much intricate their duty, 
and branle the commandment, and do that which is so much 
against the letter of it, and against the doctrine of that 
Church to whom the law was given, and against so much 
reason ; and for the doing of which they are forced to use so 
much violence of answer, such convulsions of distinction. 
A jealous man will not endure such comportments in his 
wife ; for the justification of which she is so hardly put to 
it, that she must have half a dozen answers before she can 
please herself, or think that she does well ; and which, after 
all, will look but like pitiful excuses. But, above all 
excuses, it would seem the worst, if she should say, ' I do 
admit another man, but not as my husband, but with a less 
regard and another sort of complication than I use to him ; 
and that which I do, I do it for his sake, he is so like him 
that he is his very picture ; and he is his very great friend, 
and what I do is for that very regard/ A jealous man would 
hardly take this for satisfaction. And if it be considered, 
that there is nothing so clear but something may be said 
against it, and iravrt Xoyy Xo'/o; avr/xsirai, ' every word can 


be contradicted by a word ;' and then how many presump- 
tions, how many reasons, how many express words, how 
many ages, and how many religions, do join in the con- 
demnation of worshipping God by an image ; it may very 
well be concluded, that our jealous God will not endure 
half so much disobedience, wilful ignorance, and obstinacy 
in such persons as, against so much reason and religion, and 
for so few and trifling pretences, will worship God and his 
Christ by images against the words of his own command- 

30. (7.) If it be inquired, ' How an image can be an idol?' 
the answer must be, ' By giving to it Divine worship, or some- 
thing that is due or proper to God.' Now, whoever knows 
it to be an image of a thing, if he have any use of reason, 
if he be not a changeling, believes better of the exemplar 
than of the image ; and knows that the worship sticks not 
in the image ; he cannot worship it for itself, but for some- 
thing to which it relates, or for something that adheres to it, 
or is derived upon it ; still the honour goes beyond the 
natural or artificial image. The image hath no worth of 
its own beyond the art or nature ; and can be estimated 
but as silver, or marble, or carved ; and, therefore, no re- 
ligion passes upon it for its own sake. Since, therefore, 
whatsoever passes on it, is for the sake of that which it 
represents, an image that is 'understood to be an image, can 
never be made an idol ; or if it can, it must be by having 
the worship of God passed through it to God ; it must be by 
being the analogical, the improper, the transitive, the relative 
(or what shall I call it ?) object of Divine worship. Now that 
this consideration may have its effect, I shall not need to say 
that an idol and an image is all one, though that be true in 
grammar; and Erasmus 6 said that St. Ambrose knew no 
difference between them, but that every image (made for 
religion) is an idol ; and that he himself saw no difference : 
but because the Church, in some ages, hath supposed a 
difference, I shall also allow it ; but find all the danger of 
any such allowance taken away by the instance of the brazen 
serpent, which did pass under both notions ; for it was a mere 
image or representment of a serpent, and the commemoration 

e In 1 Cor. viii. 


of God's delivering his people from them : but when it came 
to he used in a religious worship, then it was an idol ; per- 
mitted when it was a bare image, but broken when it passed 
into an idol. An image or an idol do not differ in themselves 
but by use and custom of speaking, the Church calling it 
an image so long as it is used lawfully : but it is an idol 
when it is used unlawfully ; that is, in plain speaking, * an 
image is lawful to be made or kept for some purposes, but 
not for other.' It is lawful for story, for memory of an 
absent friend or valued person that is away, for the moving 
an affection, for ornament and the beauty of a place : but 
it is not lawful to have them, not lawful to make them with 
designs of ministering to religion or the service and worship 
of God : which I choose to express in the words of the 
author of the famous books under the name of Charles the 
Great/ " Nos imagines in basilicis positas, idola non nun- 
cupamus; sed ne idola nuncupentur, adorare et colere eas 
recusamus ; We do not call images by the name of 
idols, but, lest they become idols, we refuse to worship 
them." But yet this I add, that although, in the use of the 
two Greek words, g/'/cwi/ and JSwXoi/, and of the Latin, ' idolum' 
and ' imago,' men have troubled themselves with finding 
material differences, yet although it might be of some use 
in inquiring the meaning of the ancient doctors of the Church 
in the question of images, yet it will be wholly impertinent 
as to the commandment. For God, forbidding images, used 
the word SoD, which signifies properly a graven image ; and 
because there were more sorts besides this, God was pleased 
to forbid HJlon, which the LXX. render by irwrbs 6/j,oiupa, 
' the likeness of any thing :' and it contains " sculptile, 
fusile, ductile, conflatile," that is, all sorts of representations, 
flat or extant, painted or carved ; and the force of this word 
can be eluded by no distinction. But then as to the meaning 
of these words in the use of the ancient doctors, this is 
certain : that although, about the time of the second Nicene 
Council, this distinction of idolum' and ' imago' was brought 
into the Christian Church, yet it was then new, and forced, 
made to serve the ends of new opinions, not of truth : for in 
Tertullian's time there was nothing of it, as appears by his 

f Lib. iv. p. 18. 


words ill his book ' de Idololatria,' c. iii. " Ad hoc necessaria 
est vocabuli interpretatio : sJSo; Greece formam sonat ; ab eo 
per diminutivum i/duXov deductum ceque apud nos formulam 
fecit. Igitur omnis forma, vel formula idolum se dici exposcit, 
estque idololatria, omnis circa omne idolum famulatus et 
servitus ; Every image (meaning of God) is an idol, 
and all worship and service about them is idolatry." This 
is plain and short. And that, once for all, I may make it 
clear, that an idol and an image was all one in the sense of 
the word, and of the ancient Church, it is undeniably so used 
in Cicero ; g " Imagines, quse idola nominant, quorum incur- 
sione non solum videamus sed etiam cogitemus," &c. : and 
for the Church, St. Chrysostom is an authentic witness; for 
he calls the pictures, by which they then adorned their 
houses, by the names of idols, o/x/a$ /.ara<j-/,'jd%o/j,sv, g/'owXa 
<xa.vrayj>u -/.at %6ava, isrw-sc, "we trim our houses, placing 
every where idols and pictures." 

31. Upon this account we may understand the meaning 
of the primitive fathers, who would not endure that a picture 
should be made, or kept ; who condemned the art itself as 
deceiving and adulterous, who said that God forbade the very 
trade itself. So Tertullian ; h "Jam vero ipsum opus per- 
sonarum, qusero, an Deo placeat, qui omneni similitudinem 
vetat fieri, quanto magis imaginis suse? Can the making 
visors please God, who hath forbidden all similitudes or 
images and pictures to be made, and how much more any 
image of himself?" " Nobis enim est aperte vetitum falla- 
cem exercere," said St. Clement,' speaking of pictures and 
images, the very art is forbidden to Christians. The same 
is affirmed by Origen ; k and long after by St. Chrysostom ;' 
but Tertullian said that the devil brought painting and 
carving into the world ; and adds, " Toto mundo ejusmodi 
artibus interdixit servis Dei; That God hath forbidden 
to all his servants in all the world to use such arts." But 
they are to be understood by their own words, spoken when 
they had the same reason and less heat ; for that the very 
making of images was forbidden by God by way of caution 
only and provision, not for any turpitude or unreasonableness 

8 De Fin. i. c. 6. Davis. Rath. p. 22. h De Speck c. xxiii. 

1 Stromat.lib. vi. et in Protrep. p. 41, edit. Paris. 

* Lib. iy. cout. Cels. ' De Idol. c. iii. 


in the thing, but for the danger which then was pregnant, 

themselves affirm : " Similitudinem vetans fieri omnium 

ostendit et causas, idololatriee, sc. substantiam cohibentes ; 
subjicit enim ' non adorabitis ea,'" &c. So Tertullian. m To 
the same purpose is that of Origen ; speaking of the Jews, 
" There was no painter or statuary admitted into their cities, 
their laws driving away all this kind of people;" " Ne qua 
occasio praeberetur hominibus crassis, neve animi eorum a 
Dei cultu avocarentur ad res terrenas per hujusmodi illece- 
bras ; Lest any occasion should be given to rude people 
of drawing their minds from the pure worship of God to 
earthly things." Now if this sense was also in the com- 
mandment, it is certain that this was but temporary ; and, 
therefore, could change : and that it was changeable appears 
in this, that God, by a Divine Spirit, assisted Bezaleel and 
Aholiab in the like curious arts ; and by other instances 
which I have already reckoned." Now this sense and 
severity might perpetually oblige the Jews ; because, during 
the whole abode of their synagogue, there was almost an 
equal danger by their perpetual conversation with idolatrous 
nations ; and, therefore, it was very well said of Tertullian, 
in the matter of the brazen serpent, " If thou regardest the 
law, thou hast God's law, ' make not the likeness of any 
thing;' but if thou considerest that afterwards Moses did 
command them to make the likeness of a serpent, do thou 
also imitate Moses, and against the law make no likeness, 
unless God also give thee a commandment as he did Moses :" 
meaning that the singular example was no prejudice to 
the law : " Exceptio firmat regulam in non exceptis." This 
part of the commandment was by God dispensed with in 
that instance, and in a few more ; but these few confirm the 
rule in all things and instances, besides themselves, for they 
say, that without God's leave we may not break this com- 
mandment. In Tertullian's time this very necessity did still 
abide, and therefore they had the same zeal against images 
and "whatsoever gave substance to idolatry;" that is Ter- 
tullian's phrase for painters and statuaries. But then this 
also is to be added : that all those instances, in the Old 

m Lib. ii. c. 22, adv. Marcion. n Sup. r. vi. n. 10. 

De Idol. c. T. 


Testament, of the brazen serpent, the bulls, the pomegra- 
nates, the cherubim, the curious works of Bezaleel, are not 
to be used as arguments against the morality of the second 
commandment : because these were single causes, and had 
their special warrant or approbation respectively from the 
same fountain whence the prohibition came ; at least, let 
them prevail no further than they ought ; let them mean 
no more than they say, and let us go no further than the 
examples ; by which we find images made, for other uses, 
but not for worship ; and, therefore, the commandment may 
be moral in all the periods of it, this only excepted which 
relates to the making of them. 

But when we consider further, that Solomon caused 
golden lions to be made about his throne, and the Jews 
imprinted images on their money, and in Christ's time they 
used the images of Ceesar on their coin, and found no 
reprover for so doing, this shews that there was something 
in the commandment that was not moral ; I mean the prohi- 
bition of making or having any images. For to these things 
we find no command of God, no dispensation, no allowance 
positive ; but the immunity of reason, and the indemnity of 
not being reproved ; and, therefore, for so much as concerns 
the making or having pictures and images, we are at liberty, 
without the warranty of an express commandment from God. 
The reason of the difference is this : the first instances 
(excepting that of the brazen serpent, which, because it was 
to be instrumental in a miraculous blessing, must suppose a 
Divine commandment, like a sacrament or sacramental) were 
of images used in the tabernacle or temple, and so came 
within the verge of religion ; and, for their likeness to the 
main superstition, might not be ventured upon without 
special leave or approbation : and, therefore, God gave 
command for the images of the tabernacle, and, by his 
majestic presence in the temple, approved all that was 
there. Upon what confidence Solomon ventured upon it, 
and whether he had a command or no, I find not recorded ; 
but, ' ex post facto,' we find it approved. But for the other 
images, which related wholly to civil use, right reason, and 
the common notices of things, was their sufficient warrant ; 
while they could have no end in disobedience, no temptation 
to it, no reward for it ; when it did not contradict any natural 


or religious reason ; there was no danger of idolatry, no 
semblance of superstition. So that the result is this : the 
Jews were forbidden to make or have any images; and this 
was because of their danger : but this was no moral law. 
But the very making and having them for worship is for- 
bidden, as the thing itself is. Just as adultery and wanton 
looks are forbidden in the same commandment, and are acts 
of the same sin ; so is worshipping and having them for 
worship ; it is that which St. Paul calls in the matter of 
uncleanness, " making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the 
lusts thereof." Making images and pictures to this end, 
is providing for the flesh : for this also is fornication and 
spiritual whoredom. And as we may look upon a woman, 
and be innocent, so we do not look upon her for lust ; so 
may we have, or make, pictures and images ; but for worship, 
we may not : and, in this sense of the words, even this 
period of the commandment is also moral, and obliges us as 
much as the Jews : but if those words did, abstractedly and 
without their relation, bind the Jews, it did never bind us 
but by way of caution and prudence ; that is, when we are 
in the same dangers as were the Israelites, in the rudeness 
and infancy of their Church especially. And this we find in 
Tertullian, that when he had affirmed the very art of painting 
and engraving to be unlawful, to them who inquire what 
then shall the poor men do who have no other means to get 
their living ? he answers, ' Let them paint tables and cup- 
boards, and remove their art from danger of religion to 
necessaiy and fit provisions for life ; let them do things as 
like as they were enabled by their art, so they were unlike 
the violations of religion ;' and therefore the Church cele- 
brates, on the eighth of November, the memory of Claudius 
Nicostratus, and their fellows, who chose to die rather than 
make images for the heathen temples : they were excellent 
statuaries, but better Christians. By which it is plain, that 
he means the very art, as it is ministered to idolatry ; for 
abstracting from that ministry and that danger it was lawful 
enough : 

Qui fingit sacros auro vel marmore vultus, 
Mou facit ille decs ; qui colit, ille facit. 

He that worships the image, he makes it an idol; and he 


that designs any assistance to the idolatry, or knowingly 
ministers to it, he adopts himself into a partnership of the 
crime. To which purpose was that of Tertullian,P " Facio 
(scil. imagines) sed non colo : quasi ob aliam causam colere 
non audeat, nisi oh quam et facere non debeat, scilicet ob 
Dei essentiam utrobique : imo tu colis, qui facis ut coli 
possint." He answers the objection of them that say, ' I 
make images, but I do not worship them ;' "as if," says he, 
" there were any reason forbidding thee to worship them, 
but the same for which thou oughtest not to make them ; 
I mean the omnipresence of God. Nay, thou worshippest 
them, who makest them that they may be worshipped." 
But in all other senses, the making a picture is not making 
an idol ; and, therefore, that severe sense of the command- 
ment, though, as it is most probable, it did oblige the Jews, 
and all persons in equal danger, yet because the reason may 
cease, and the danger be secured, when it is ceased, the 
obligation also is null ; and, therefore, though that was in, 
the commandment, yet it is no part of its morality ; but that 
excepted, every other clause is moral and eternal. 

32. (8.) And all this is perfectly consenting to the analogy 
of the Gospel, which is a spiritual worship, unclothed of bodily 
ceremonies, stripped naked of beggarly rudiments, even those 
which God had commanded in the old law ; Christ placed 
but two mysterious ceremonies in the place of all the shadows 
of Moses ; and since Christianity hath shook off that body 
and outsides of religion, that law of a carnal commandment, 
that we might ' serve God in spirit and truth ;' that is, pro- 
portionable to his perfections, it cannot be imagined that 
this spiritual religion, which worships God in praises and 
love, in charity and alms, in faith and hope, in contemplation 
and humility, in self-denial and separations from all corporeal 
adherences that are not necessary, and that are not natural, 
I say, it cannot be imagined that this spiritual religion 
should put on a fantastic body, which, as much as it can, 
separates from a real : that Christianity should make a visor 
for God, who hath no body, and give that to him which the 
heathens gave to their devils : " Dsemoniis corpora contule- 
runt ; They gave a body to their demons," says Tertullian, q 

P De Idol. c. vi. < Ibid. c. vii. 


when they made images to them ; that he who, under 
the law of carnal ordinances, could not endure an image, 
should yet be pleased with it under the pure and spiritual 
institution of the Gospel. A Christian must yvwias iga<ff*ias 
a<ttdeeda,i, " worship God with genuine and proper worship- 
pings ;" that is, -4>u%55 tyfofi xalpovr, v<s!q, " with the pure and 
only worship of the soul." Now if the ceremonials of Moses 
were contrary to this spirituality, and, therefore, was taken 
away by the Gospel, it cannot be imagined, that images 
which are more contrary to a spiritual worship, should be let 
in by Christ when they were shut out by Moses. To this 
purpose they are excellent words which were spoken by 
Clemens Alexandrinus : r " Moses, many ages before, made 
a law, that there should be no graven, no molten, no painted 
image or likeness of a thing made amongst them, that we 
should not attend sensible things, but pass to those which 
are perceived by the understanding only. For the daily 
custom of seeing him (in effigy) makes that the majesty of 
God becomes vile and contemptible, and by material sub- 
stances (gross images) to worship that essence, which is only 
discerned by the mind, is, by the sense, to undervalue the 
eternal mind." 

33. (9.) And, upon these accounts, we find that the Christ- 
ians were great haters of image-worship, and even of images 
themselves ; and did deride the heathen follies, who, in the 
midst of their witty disputations and wise discourses of God, 
did so unman themselves, and baffle their own reason, as to 
worship this invisible God by looking upon a contemptible 
image. To this purpose Origen discourses wisely : s " God 
hath chosen the folly of the world, those amongst the Christ- 
ians whose lives were most simple, modest, and more pure 
than that of the philosophers, that he might put to shame 
those wise men who blush not to speak to lifeless trunks as 
if they were gods, or images of the gods. For what sober 
man does not easily discern him who, after his excellent 
and philosophical discourses of God, or of the gods, does 
presently look upon images, and offers prayers to them, or by 
the beholding them as some conspicuous sign, strives to lift 
up his mind to the imagination of an intelligible Deity ? But 

r Stromat. v. * Cont. Cels. lib. Tii. ' 


the Christian, though but unlearned, yet he believes verily 
that the whole world is the temple of God, and he prays 
in every place, shutting his bodily eyes, but lifting up the 
eyes of his mind and being rapt, as it were, beyond this 
world, he makes his prayers to God for great things." This 
is the advantage, the spirituality, and devotion of the Christ- 
ian. Concerning which it were easy to bring many ancient 
testimonies ; which whoever is desirous to see, may find 
them frequently in the fathers of the four first ages ; but 
especially in Irenaeus, lib. i. cont. Heer. c. 24. Origen, 
lib. vii. cont. Gels. Tertul. de Idol. c. v. and de Coron. 
Mil. and de Spectac. c. xxiii. Clemens Rom. Recogn.lib. v. 
and Clem. Alex. Strom, i. et v. S. Chrysost. in Synod, vii. 
act. 6. and in 1 Cor. viii. Epiph. Haer. xxix. Amphiloch. 
apud Syn. vii. action, ead. Optatus, lib. iii. cont. Donat. 
S. Ambrose, ep. xxxi. ad Valent. S.Austin, in Psal. cxiii. : 
all which speak of this article so as needs no commentary, 
and admits of no evasion, decretorily, and dogmatically, and 

34. Now against this heap of plain testimonies, there is 
not any one clear sentence and dogmatical proposition to 
be brought; and if there could be brought forty particular 
instances of a contrary practice, though there are not three 
to be had in pure antiquity and in authentic testimony, yet it 
could not, in any degree, abate the certainty of this doctrine: 
because the doctors of those ages say, that wherever there is 
any such thing, it is unlawful. Epiphanius did rend in 
pieces the veil at Anablatha, near Bethlehem, because it had 
in it the picture of a man ; and this is so notorious, that 
Alphonso de Castro calls him an iconoclast : but Epiphanius 
gives this account of it to the bishop of Jerusalem, " Contra 
autoritatem Scripturae esse ut in Christi ecclesia hominis 
pendeat imago ;" and, " istiusrnodi vela contra religionem 
nostram veniunt : It is against the authority of the Scrip- 
tares, it is against our religion, that the image of a man, that 
such veils should be in the church." And Lactantius 1 as 
plainly, " Dubium non est quin religio nulla sit, ubicunque 
simulacrum est; Where an image is, it is certain there is 
no religion :" and St. Austin answers all pretensions to the 

1 Lib. ii. c. de Orig. Erroris. 


contrary, which can readily be drawn from antiquity. " I 
know," says he, " many that are worshippers of pictures, 
but such as neither know nor exhibit the force of their pro- 
fession, but they are such who are superstitious in their very 
religion, such which the Church would condemn, and daily 
seek to correct like little children." This being the doctrine 
of the Primitive Church, if a contrary practice comes in, it is 
certain it is by corruption of faith and manners. The temples 
of gods and the images of gods they had in equal detestation ; 
not that they hated public places of worship, but ' templa, 
non ecclesias,' or ' dominicas ;' for we must know, that in the 
language of the fathers, by * temples' they did mean such as 
the Gentiles had; such as the Holy Scriptures" call the place 
of Micah's images, " a house of gods ;" according to that 
famous saying of Isidore, " Templi nulla ratio quod non 
coronat simulacrum; It is no temple that is without an 
image :" and it is no church that hath one, according to the 
Primitive Christian doctrine : and it was remarkable what is 
told by ^Elius Lampridius, in the Life of Alexander Severus, 
that when Adrian, the emperor, had commanded churches to 
be built without images, it was supposed he intended them 
for the service of Christ ; than which there needs no greater 
or clearer instance of the doctrine and practice of the holy 

35. But the best and most perfect account that can be 
given of the Christian religion in this article, is by the eccle- 
siastical laws. The Council of Eliberis," in Spain, made a 
canon : " Placuit picturas in ecclesia esse non debere, ne quod 
colitur aut adoratur, in parietibus depingatur; Pictures 
must not be in churches, lest that which is worshipped or 
adored, be painted upon the walls." From which plain 
place Bellarmine, Perron, Binius, and divers others, y take 
great pains to escape : it matters not how, as to the question 
of conscience ; it is sufficient what Agobardus, bishop of 
Lyons, above eight hundred years ago, says in this very 
particular. " Now error is so grown, and is perspicuous 
that they approach near the heresy of Anthropomorphites, 

" Judges, xvii. 5. * Eliber. can. 36. 

J Ilia (lex) non imprudenter mode, verum etiam irapie a Concilio Elibertino 
lata est de tollendis imaginibus. Canas loc. Theol. lib. v. c. 4. Concil. 4. de 
Pick et Imag. 


and worship images, and put their hope in them ; the cause 
of which error is, that faith is departed from men's hearts, 
and they put their confidence in what they see. But as when 
we see soldiers armed, or husbandmen ploughing, or mowing, 
or gathering grapes, in picture, or the pictures of huntsmen 
pursuing their game, or of fishermen throwing their nets, we 
do not hope to receive from them a mullet, or a month's 
pay, handfuls of barley, or clusters of grapes : so if we see 
winged angels painted, apostles preaching, martyrs dying, 
we are not to expect any aid or good from the images we 
see, because they can neither do good nor hurt. Therefore, 
for the abolishing of this superstition, * recte ab orthodoxis 
patribus definitum est, it was rightly defined by the ortho- 
dox fathers,' that pictures ought not to be in churches, lest 
that which is worshipped (viz. God or his Christ) be painted 
upon their walls." To the same purpose the fathers of the 
fourth Council at Constantinople did quote the words of 
Epiphanius, as we learn from the acts of the second Nicene 
Council, 2 in these words: "Take heed to yourselves and hold 
the traditions which ye have received ; decline not to the 
right hand or to the left : and remember, my beloved sons, 
that ye bring not images into the churches, nor into the 
cemeteries of the saints ; but by remembrance place God 
in your hearts." To the same purpose was it decreed by 
another synod, a at Constantinople, of three hundred and 
thirty-eight bishops, under Constantius Copronymus; for- 
bidding all use of images in churches or out of them: and so 
much of their decree as forbade the worship of images, was 
followed by Charles the Great and the learned men of that 
age, and confirmed by the synod at Frankfort, where the 
bishops of Italy, France, and Germany, were called by the 
emperor to that purpose. To these, if we add the Council of 
Mentz, and the secdnd Council of Sens, b who commanded 
" populum moneri ne imagines adoret, that the people 
should be warned, that they do not worship images," we 
have testimony enough of the Christian doctrine and usages 
of the best men, and the best times. 

36. Concerning the Christian doctrine, I suppose myself 
to have said enough in this article. But, besides the premises, 

1 Sjn. vii. act. 6. A,E. 753. b Senon. ii. c. 20. 


there is something peculiar to be superadded, which concerns 
both Jews and Gentiles, and the uninstructed laity of the 

37. (1.) Concerning the Jews, I have already made it ap- 
pear, that their religion was perfectly against images ; but I 
have two things to add which relate to them: first, that, in the 
disputations between the Jews and Christian doctors in the 
Primitive Church, they never objected against the Christians, 
that they either had images or did worship them ; as is 
evident to them that read the conference between Justin 
Martyr and Tryphon ; and in the book which Tertullian 
wrote against the Jews, and in divers other rencounters ; in 
which the Jew was forward to object all that he could asperse 
the Christian withal, and he, on the other side, as ready to 
defend his cause. But not one word, in any of them, of 
objection against the Christians in the matter of images ; 
which is an evident argument, that the use of images was 
not as yet known to the Church of the first ages. 

2. For when the doctrine and manners of the Christians 
began to be sullied and degenerate; and she who was a pure 
virgin, and dear to Christ, began to fornicate with strange 
imaginations ; the Jew instantly became clamorous and 
troublesome in the article ; professed himself to be scandal- 
ized at the whole religion, and in all disputations was sure 
to lay it in the Christian's dish. There was a famous dia- 
logue, written a little before the time of the seventh synod, 
in which a Jew is brought in thus speaking to the Christian : 
" Scandalizor in vos, Christiani, quia imagines adoratis: 
Scriptura quippe ubique praecipit non facere quenquam sibi 
sculptile, vel omnem similitudinem ; I am offended at you, 
Christians, because ye worship images ; whereas the Scrip- 
ture every where commands, that no man should make to 
himself any graven image, or the likeness of any thing." Of 
the same accusation, Leontius, bishop of Cyprus, takes notice 
in his apology against the Jews : and that the Jews make 
great noises with this accusation of the Christians, and put 
very much upon it, we may see in the epistle of Ludovicus 
Carretus, and the catechetical dialogues of Fabianus Fiogus. 
But this observation is very remarkable out of the Jewish 

e Syn. vii. act. 5. 


Talmud : for in the first part of it, which they call the 
Mischna, there is not one word of declamation or reproof 
against Christians in the matter of images (as has been long 
since observed by learned men) : for this was made about two 
hundred years after Christ, in all which time the Christians 
did hate images as much as the Jews did. But in the Gemara 
Babylonicum, which is the second part of the Talmud, that is 
of authority amongst them, which was finished about five 
hundred years after Christ, at which time also images began 
to be received in churches : there, and in all the commentaries 
of the rabbins, published in the tenth or eleventh age, the 
Jews call the Christian churches ml miSJJ rva beth havoda 
zara, " The house of idolatry:" and it will be impossible that 
ever they can become Christians, so long as they see images 
worshipped in our churches ; and the second commandment 
left out of the catechisms of those with whom especially they 
do converse. 

38. That which I am to say concerning heathens, is 
this : That it is impossible that those Christians who wor- 
ship images of God, should distinguish their manner of 
worshipping the true God, from the manner by which the 
heathens worshipped their gods. For they did not sup- 
pose their images to be gods ; and therefore they would 
laugh at the Christians, if they had nothing else to say 
against them, but that God is not a stone, or metal polished 
by the engraver's tool. Thus Arnobius brings in the Gen- 
tiles speaking, "Neque nos sera, neque auri argentique 
materias quibus signa confiunt, deos esse et religiosa decer- 
nirnus esse numina, sed eos ipsos in his colimus, quos dedi- 
catio infert sacra," &c. " We do not think the gold, or the 
brass, or the silver, of which we make our images, to be 
gods ; but in these images we worship them." 

Hoc Deus est quod imago docet, sed non Deus ipse ; 
Hoc videas, sed mente colas quod cernis in ipsa; 

"The image is not God, but represents him : your eye upon 
the image, and your mind upon God." " Quis enim alius est 
nisi sit plane fatuus, qui haec deos esse putet, non autem 
deorum donaria et simulacra ? None but fools (said 
Celsus) d will call them gods, which are but images of the 
gods." And it is very pertinent, which Lucian 6 told the 

d Origcn. cont. Cels. lib. vii. Lucian. pro Imagin. 


matron, who took it ill that she was complimented too 
high, and compared in beauty to the goddesses ; " I never 
did (says he), fair lady, compare you to the goddesses, but 
with their images made by the best workmen of stone, or 
brass, or ivory. And I do not think it impious to com- 
pare things with men, if those things are made by men ; 
unless you will suppose that Phidias made Minerva or that 
to be the heavenly Venus, which, a great many years ago, 
Praxiteles made at Cnidus. But take heed, for it is an 
undecent thing to think such things of the gods, whose true 
representations (as I suppose) no human industry can make." 
The same is to be seen in Athenagoras/ in Arnobius, 8 in 
Lactantius, h St. Austin,' and divers others. " Signa ad 
Junonis Sospitae cruore manavere," said Livy ; k " The signs 
(meaning the images in Juno's temple) did drop blood :" and 
Clemens Romanus 1 brings in the heathens, saying, ''We 
worship visible images to the honour of the invisible God." 
And they could sometimes laugh at their gods whom their 
priests exposed to worship, and yet themselves m knew them 
to have been a plum-tree. 

Olim truncus erara ficulnus, inutile lignum ; 
Cum faber, incertus scamnum faceret-ne Priapum, 
Maluit ease Deum. Deus inde ego, furum aviumque 
Maxima formido. 

' It was a great question amongst the carpenters, whether this 
wood should be a god or a stool :' now they that talked thus, 
knew what that was which their mystic persons called 
a god; they were sure they could be but images of them. 
So that these Christians who worship God by an image, 
although they otherwise sin against the first commandment 
than heathens do, who worship false gods, yet they sin 
equally against the second commandment, and, by images, 
transmit worship to their god respectively. I do not doubt 
but the ruder among the heathens did suppose the very 
image to be their god, or that their god did dwell in their 
temple, and in^their image, or that a Divine power was com- 
municated to it : 

1 Legat. pro Christian. t Lib. vi. adv. Gentes. 

b Lib. ii. Div. Inst. c. 2, in init. 

' De Civil. Dei, lib. viii. c. 23; et in Psal. cxiii. Cone. 2, et lib. iii. 3, de 
Doetr. Christ. 

k Dec. 3, lib. iii. ' Recog. lib. v. m Hor. S. i. 8, 1. 


Ut pueri infantes credunt signa omnia ahena 
Vivere, et esse homines, et sic isti omnia ficta 
Vera putant: credunt signis cor esse in ahenis." 

For some are such very children as to think the wooden 
puppet to be a wood man ; and therefore, when the prophets 
discoursed against them in the matter of images, they called 
them wood and stone, gold and silver, and represented the 
folly of putting trust in things that had no life, which them- 
selves placed there, which cats did sit upon, and birds built 
their nests in : but either by these arguments they did reprove 
those fools amongst them who did suppose them to be gods 
indeed (who also sinned directly against the first command- 
ment, and committed idolatry in the object of their worship), 
or those better spirits and wiser heads among them, 
who, though they derided that folly, yet they put their 
trust in the images, as supposing them invested with 
power from their God, and that by them he would do them 

3. Now how far differing this is from the practice of 
Christians in some times and places, we may guess by the 
complaints made by learned men, particularly by Cassander, 
and Polydore Virgil, and Hesselius, the regius professor at 
Louvain ; but without the aid of their testimony, it is plain 
by their public and authorized treatment of their images, 
they consecrate their images, they hope in them, they expect 
gifts and graces from them, they clothe them and crown 
them, they erect altars and temples to them, they kiss them, 
and bow their head and knee before them, they light up 
tapers and lamps to them, which is a direct consumptive 
sacrifice, " et reliquam observationem circa eas, similiter ut 
gentes, faciunt ; they do to their images as the heathens 
do to theirs ;" they are the words of Irenseus, by which he 
reproves the folly of some that had got the pictures of Christ 
and Pythagoras, and other eminent persons. But that which 
is most to be reproved, and can be less excused, is their 
prayers p and forms of dedicating their golden or wooden 
images; "Sanctify, O God, this form of the blessed Virgin, 
that it may bring saving help to thy faithful people, that 

n Lucil. 

Consult, loc. de Imagin. De Invent. Rer. in Decal. part i. c. 66. 

i' Pontific. Rom. Vide Missal. Rora. sub tit. De Ritu Servau. 


thunders and lightnings may be driven away the sooner, that 
immoderate rains or floods, and civil wars, or the invasion of 
heathens, may, at the presence of this, be suppressed." As bad 
or worse are in the pontifical, in the dedication of an image 
of the cross, and of St. John, and at the hallowing the 
' Agnus Dei.' Now these things are as bad as can be, and 
yet done to images (I do not doubt) for their sakes whom they 
represent ; but yet with some regard to the image itself, for 
so they value our lady of Hales, our lady of Walsingham, of 
Loretto, of Sichem, Aspricollis, Prunetana, Ardilleriana, more 
than our lady of Nostredaine, or Florence, or St. Denis. 
Now when the relatives of one term do differ, it is for them- 
selves that the difference is, not for the correlative, which is 
still the same: and here for the common people to discern 
the niceties and the intricate nothings that their learned 
men have devised, to put a vizor upon this folly, is so impos- 
sible, that it will not be easy to make them understand the 
terms, though a learned man were by them at every cringe 
they make. They cannot tell whether the worship be to 
the image or the exemplar; which is prime and which is 
secondary ; they cannot distinguish, ' latria,' and - dulia,' 
and ' hyperdulia;' nor can they skill in proper or improper 
worship, mediate and immediate, univocal, equivocal, and 
analogical, nor say how much is for this, and how much for 
that, or which is simple and which is allayed, which is abso- 
lute and which is reductive. And although men in the 
schools, and when they have nothing to do but to make 
distinctions which nobody can understand, can separate 
word from word, form from matter, real from notional, the 
shadow from the body, a dream from a vision, the skin from 
the flesh, and the flesh from the bone, yet when they come 
to action, and clothe their theorems with a body of circum- 
stances, he that attends the present business of devotion and 
desire, will not find himself able or at leisure then to distin- 
guish curiously ; and therefore it was well said of Hesselius 
of Louvain; " Images were brought into use for the sake of 
the laity, and now for their sakes they are to be removed 
again, lest they give Divine worship to the image, ,or fall into 
the heresy of the Anthropomorphites;" (he might have 
added) ' or lest by worshipping God by an image, they com- 
mit the sin of superstition and idolatry, breaking the second 


commandment.' For the same folly, which, in the heathens, 
was reproved by the primitive Christians, the same is done 
nowadays by Christians to their images. I shall con- 
clude this with a story out of an Italian, q who wrote com- 
mentaries of the affairs of India : When the poor barba- 
rians of Nova Hispania, in the kingdom of Mexico, had, one 
day, of a sudden found their idols taken down and broken, 
they sent four principal persons of their country to Alphonso 
Zuasus, the licentiate, who had commanded it ; they com- 
plaining of the injury supposed also, and told him, they did 
believe it to be done without his consent or knowledge, as 
knowing that Christians had idols and images of their own, 
whom they valued, and adored, and worshipped : and looking 
up, and espying the image of St. Sebastian, whom Alfonsus 
had in great veneration hanging by his bedside, they pointed 
at him with their finger, saying, the same regard which he 
had to the image of St. Sebastian, the same they had to 
theirs. The governor being troubled with this quick and 
not barbarous discourse, turned him about a little, and at 
last told them, that the Christians did not worship images 
for their own sakes, but as they represented holy persons 
dwelling in heavenly places : and to demonstrate that, took 
down the image of St. Sebastian, and broke it in pieces. 
They replied that it was just so with them ; and that they 
were not so stupid to worship the images for their own 
regards, but as they represented the sun and moon, and all 
the lights of heaven. Alfonsus being yet more troubled, was 
forced to change the state of the question, by saying, that 
the object was differing, though the manner was not ; that 
the Christians did, by their images, pass honour to the great 
Creator of the world ; but they did it to creatures, to evil 
spirits and false gods : which was indeed very true, but it 
was a removing the question from the second commandment 
to the first. For, although, in relation to the first, the 
heathens have the worst of it ; yet as to the second, these 
Christians and the poor Indians were equal : and the wit of 
man cannot tell how they differ. 

40. But I shall add this, that though it be impossible to 
know how the worship of God by an image should come 

i Pietro Martire, Hist, delle Ind. lib. xx. c. 11. 


into the world ; unless it be, as Tertullian said of the very art 
of making images, that ' it came from the devil ;' yet it is 
observable, that it never prevailed any where but in a dege- 
nerating people. The Jews at first were pure worshippers 
of the God of their fathers, but at any time when Satan 
stood at their right hand and made Israel to sin, then they 
would play the fool with images. In the purest times of 
Christianity they kept themselves clean from images ; but as 
they grew worse, so they brought in superstition, and worship 
of images, and so it was amongst the heathens too. While 
they kept themselves to the principles of their institution 
and tradition, which they had from the patriarchs of nations, 
who had been taught by God, and lived according to nature ; 
they worshipped God simply and purely. 

Si Deus est animus 

Hie tibi prsecipue pura sit mente colendus; 

" A pure and immaterial substance is dishonoured by any 
worship but that of a pure and a holy mind ;" and the an- 
cientest Romans, for one hundred and seventy years together, 
worshipped without an image, said Varro ; who adds this 
judgment of his own, " Quod si adhuc mausisset, castius dii 
observarentur ; If the same had been still observed, the 
gods had been more purely, more chastely worshipped." The 
word which Varro uses is very proper, and according to the 
style of Scripture, which calls idolatrous worshippings by the 
name of fornication. But Varro adds this reason, " Qui 
primi simulacra deorum populis posueruut, eos civitatibus 
suis et metum dempsisse, et errorern addidisse." The intro- 
duction of images brought in error, and cast out fear : 

Stulte rerebor ipse cum faciam deos ; 

" If I worship what I make, I will not fear what I worship." 
" Well and wisely did he suppose (said St. Austin) that the 
greatness of their gods might soon become despicable by 
the foolishness of images :" and it might reasonably prevail 
against the old superstition to suppose, that he who governed 
all the world, ought to be worshipped without an image. 
The same testimony we have in Plutarch in the Life of Numa : 
" The gods had houses and cells, but no images, as supposing 
it to be impious to express the greatest things by the basest ; 


and knowing that there is no other way of coming to God 
but by the mind." 

41. From hence I infer, that neither God nor nature, 
neither reason nor religion, brought images into the worship 
of God : but it was the invention of superstitious men, or 
rather of the enemy of mankind, that he might draw the 
heart of man from contemplation of the invisible, and depress 
it to low phantasms and sensible adherences, to diminish the 
fear of God, and to produce confidences in dead substances 
clothed with accidents of art; to amuse the foolish, and to 
entertain the weakest part of him that is wiser, and that re- 
ligion might be capable of tricks and illusions, which could 
not happen to immaterial and spiritual worshippings. But 
that all the reason of the world is against it, may be the 
rather presumed, because, although the patrons of images 
offer at some reasons for the use of images in story, and 
ornament, and instruction, yet no man pretends to any rea- 
sonableness of worshipping God by an image, or giving 
God's due to an image. Some of them say, that ' the same 
worship passes from the image unto God, and therefore it is 
lawful, and God is not dishonoured ;' but upon no reasonable 
account can it be said, that therefore it is good, that it 
pleases God, that it promotes his honour, that it is without 
danger ; and however any man may intend to pass the re- 
lative honour that way, yet no man hath any warrant that 
God will accept it, or that he will endure it, that way ; that 
he will receive his sacrifices most readily, when they are 
first washed (shall I call it? or fouled) in the Borborus, by 
the pollutions and abominations of images : for that they are 
called so in Scripture, is evident ; but they are never com- 
mended there, not one good word of them is there recorded : 
but of the worship of them nothing but prohibition, and exe- 
cration, and foul appellatives. There is no necessity of it, no 
advantage by it, no man is helped by it, no command, no 
license, no promise, no scripture for it ; all the religions that 
ever God did institute, are expressly against it ; and to sum 
up all, it is against the law of nature ; of which I need no 
other witnesses but the testimony of all those wise per- 
sonages, who affirm the two tables of Moses to be moral in 
every precept, excepting that of the Sabbath, and to be of 


the law of nature. So Irenaeus r expressly : so Tertullian, 9 
St. Cyprian, 4 Origen," St. Austin/ and generally all anti- 
quity. The sum of all I express in the words of St. Paul, 
6 00g o tfoiqffas xofffAov oux i/cri X*'^" avSptavrav^foaffsveroii' " God 
is not worshipped with men's hands," that is, with the pro- 
ductions of art and imagination. 

42. I conclude, that the second commandment is a moral 
and natural precept in the whole body and constitution of it, 
if the first words of it be relative to the last ; that is, if the 
prohibition of making images be understood so as to include 
an order to their worship ; but if these words be made to be 
a distinct period, then that period was only obligatory to 
the Jews, and to Christians in equal danger, and under the 
same reason ; and therefore can also pass away with the 
reason, which was but temporary, transient, and accidental : 
all the rest retaining their prime, natural, and essential 

Of the Jewish Sabbath, and the Lord's Day. 

43. There is one instance more, in which the rule is more 
apparently verified ; which I mentioned a little above : and 
that is, the precept of the Sabbath : which God instituted for 
many reasons. 1. To be a perpetual memorial of the crea- 
tion, and that God might be glorified in the works of his 
hands by the religion of that day. 2. To preserve the me- 
mory of their deliverance from the captivity of Egypt ; y and, 
upon the same account, to do ease and remission roTg SovXois 
Xoyr/toTs xai aAoyo/g, " to servants reasonable and unreasonable." 
R.Moses Ben Maimon, in his 'More Nevochim,' 2 affirms, 
that the end of the Sabbath is, " Septimam vitse partem ho- 
mini praestare liberam, et vacuam a labore et defatigatione, 
turn conservare et confirmare memoriam et fidem creationis 
mundi ; That we should spend the seventh part of our life 
in ease and rest ; and preserve the faith and memory of the 
article of the world's creation ;" 

'EoSo^av Zftag tti> Ktti rS nri\iffra aVarr*.* 

r Lib. iv. c. 31,32. De Idol. lib. iii. 

1 Ad Quirin. c. 59, et c. 1, de Exhort. Martyr. 

Origen, Horn. viii. in Ex. lib. xv. x Cont. Faust, c. 4, 7. 

1 Deut. v. 14. z Lib. iii. c. 43. Homer. 


because upon the seventh day all things were finished : and 
therefore according to that of Linus cited by Eusebius, 

v vrga<rciffi, xai oftn iffri TsAs/ 

"The seventh day is the day of the world's nativity, or the 
feast of its birth, it is the chiefest and most perfect of days." 
3. St. Austin 6 hath another fancy ; and he intends to offer 
at no higher rate : " Dici probabiliter potest, observandum 
Sabbatum Judaeis fuisse prscceptum in umbra futuri, quae spi- 
ritualem requiem figuraret, quam Deus, exemplo hujus quietis 
suoe, fidelibus, bona opera facientibus, arcana significatione 
pollicebatur; It may be said, probably, that the precept 
of the Sabbath to the Jews was a type and shadow of that 
spiritual rest, which God by his example did by a secret sig- 
nification promise to the faithful that did good works." I 
acknowledge that there is a fair proportion in the sign and 
in the thing signified ; but whether this was so intended by 
God, or so understood by the Jews, is but ' probabiliter 
dictum,' a probable conjecture taken only from the natural 
similitude of the things. 

44. But allowing this ; the consequent of all will be, that 
what was for temporary reasons established, cannot pass an 
eternal obligation. Concerning which it is to be observed, 
that those are to be called temporary or transient reasons, 
not only when the thing ceases to have a being; such as 
those laws which were to separate the Jews from the Gen- 
tiles, and those which related to the tabernacle, or the land 
of their dwelling, or the manner of their sacrifice, or their 
addresses to their chief city ; for these cease by subtraction 
of the matter and the natural abolition of the material cause; 
because the wall of partition is taken down ; and the law 
of ceremonies is abolished, and the people are exterminated 
from their country, and their sacrifices are ceased, and their 
city is destroyed, and their temple burnt : but that reason 
also is transient and temporary, which, in a like instance, 
passes into a greater of the same kind. Thus the deliverance 
of Israel from the Egyptian bondage, though, being a matter 
of fact, it is eternally true that it was once done, yet it is a 

b S. Aug. lib. iv. de Genes, ad lit. c. 11. 


temporary, transient reason ; because all God's people now 
rejoice in a greater deliverance and from a bondage that 
was infinitely worse, from the slavery of sin, and the powers 
of hell. And thus also the great reason of the Sabbath, I 
mean God's rest from the works of the creation, is a tem- 
porary, transient reason ; because there is now a new crea- 
tion ; "vetera transierunt, old things are passed away, and 
all things are become new;" and the Gospel is isa xr/V/j, 'a 
new creation,' and our natures are regenerate, and reformed, 
and made with new principles of a new life to higher ends 
than before; and, therefore, though the work of God's 
creation is to be remembered and God to be glorified by us 
in his works, yet when there is a greater reason, the solem- 
nity must relate to that, and the lesser duty can be well 
served by that day, which can also minister to the greater. 

45. And therefore we find that something of this very rea- 
son is drawn into the observation of the Lord's day, or the first 
day of the week, by Justin Martyr, Tqv rou j^X/ou jj/iagav xoivf 
tfdvrt; ryv guviXtuffiv xoioufAidu,, stfsi&ri irgurq etfriv fif&sga, sv fj o Qsbg TO 
dxorog not.} rqv uXyv rge-^>a$ xoffpov tffc/'/qffs, xa/ Iqffovs Xg/tfrog 6 ri/j,ersgo<; 
2wn}0 ry avrfi ri/^fece, tx vexguv av'sffri)' *' We celebrate con- 
ventions or assemblies commonly upon the Sunday, because 
it is the first day in which God separated the light from the 
darkness, and made the world, and on the same day Jesus 
Christ our Saviour arose from the dead." The first of these 
looks more like an excuse than a just reason ; for if any 
thing of the creation were made the cause of a Sabbath, it 
ought to be the end, not the beginning; it ought to be the 
rest, not the first part of the work ; it ought to be that which 
God assigned, not which man should take by way of after 

46. But in the precept of the Sabbath, there are two great 
things. One was the rest, the other the religion of the day. 
The rest was in remembrance of their deliverance from 
Egypt ; and therefore they kept their first sabbatic rest upon 
the very day in which their redemption was completed, that 
is, as soon as ever Pharaoh and his host were overthrown in 
the Red Sea ; and this because it was external, ritual, na- 
tional, relative, and temporary, abused by superstition, and 

c Apol. ii. 


typical of something to come, without all contradiction is so 
perfectly ceremonial and consequently abrogated, that there 
can be no greater wonder than to see some Christians such 
superstitious observers of the rest of that day, that they equal 
even the greatest follies of the Jews; who, as Munster out of 
the rabbins observes, thought it unlawful to put an apple to 
the fire to be roasted upon that day, and would not pour out 
wine upon mustard-seed, nor take a clove of garlic from its 
skin and eat it, nor thought it lawful to pursue a skipping 
flea, nor to kill any creeping thing that had variety of sexes, 
nor to climb a tree lest they break a bough, nor by singing 
to still the crying of a child, nor to play upon the harp, nor 
by walking on the grass pluck up a leaf with the shoe. 
These, trifles as they were, such Avhich even the Jew was 
noways obliged to, so they are infinitely against Christian 
liberty and the analogy and wisdom of the religion. 

47. But the Jews say that Enoch and Noah, Abraham 
and Jacob, kept a festival to God, a memorial of the creation. 
If so, yet we find no rest observed by them, nor any inter- 
mission of their journeys; but it is reasonable to believe, 
that, by some portions of their time, they did specially serve 
God, as well as by some actions of their life, and some por- 
tions of their estate : and to this it is not improbable that 
Moses did relate, when, to the words in Deuteronomy, 
" Remember to keep the day of the Sabbaths to sanctify 
it," he added, ov rgovov svzrtiXaro ffoi Kugioc 6 Qeog tfou, " accord- 
ing as the Lord thy God had commanded thee," meaning, 
at the beginning of the world : but in this part of the precept 
there was nothing of rest, but much of holiness and proper 
sanctifi cation. 

48. Now concerning this, the resolutions will be easy; that 
God should be served and glorified by us is a part of natural 
and essential religion : this cannot be done with nothing ; 
there must be bodies, and gifts, and places, and time to do 
it in : the patriarchs did bind themselves, or were bound by 
God, to certain circumstances ; for that which is indefinite 
and unlimited, shall neither be done constantly nor regularly: 
but since the day of the creation's ending was afterwards 
made the rule of fixing a day, it is also probable, that that 
also was the limit and rule for the patriarchs' religious so- 
lemnity: this indeed is denied by St.Irenaeus, and Tertullian, 


and some others, affirming that the patriarchs who kept no 
Sabbath, were yet pleasing to God : but because certainly it 
was so to the Jews, upon a reason which though it can be 
involved in a greater, yet it cannot totally be forgotten; it is 
more than probable that the religion of the day must never 
be forgotten ; but God must have a portion of our time for 
his service, and the blessing which they were, both in and 
before the law, to commemorate, must also, by implication 
or else expressly, be remembered. 

49. Upon this or some equal account, the primitive 
Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews ; not only for 
their compliance with the Jews till the distinction were con- 
fessed and notorious ; but because the moral religion, which 
was served by that day, was not brought into the religion of 
the Lord's day as yet ; therefore the Christians, for a long 
time together, did keep their conventions upon the Sabbath, 
in which some portions of the law were read : d and this con- 
tinued till the time of the Laodicean Council; 6 which also 
took care that the reading of the Gospels should be mingled 
with their , reading of the law : which was, in a manner, the 
first public reasonable essay of uniting the religion of both 
days into one. 

50. At first, they kept both days with this only differ- 
ence, that though they kept the Sabbath, yet it was after 
the Christian, that is, after the spiritual manner : in these 
exuberancies and floods of religion, which overflowed their 
channels, one day of solemnity was not enough : but besides 
that they, by their Sabbath meetings, had intercourse with 
the Jews in order to their conversion, and the Jewish Christ- 
ians in order to the establishment of their religion, they 
were glad of all occasions to glorify God : but they did it 
without any opinion of essential obligation ; and without the 
Jewish rest ; and upon the account of Christian reasons. Of 
this custom of theirs we find testimony in Ignatius/ ' 
ixafffog f)(j,uv ffaQSari^eru ffvtvfAarixus piX'try vopov ^a/gwv, 

i, drifitougyiav sou Sau/ta^av, ou^ g'wXa xal ^X/a^a wivuv, xcti 
f3a8iwv t xai ogfflffii xai %oo/c, cot ovx t^ouffi, xalguv. 
That was their way of observation of the Sabbath : " Let 
every one of us keep the Sabbath spiritually ; delighting in 
the meditation of the law, not in the ease of the body, 

* Acts, xv. *1. Can. 16, A.D. 364. * Epist. ad Mag. 


wondering at the works of God, not in indulging to delicious 
banquets, and softer drinkings or dancings that do not better 
the understanding." So that they kept the Sabbath, not as 
did the Jews ; who, as Munster affirmed, supposed it to be 
a keeping of the Sabbath, if they wore better clothes, or ate 
more meat, or drank the richest wines: idleness, and luxury, 
and pride, are the worst ceremonies of the religion of the 
Sabbath ; the proper employment of that day is religion, 
which the Jews, and from them some of the most ancient 
Christians, signified by ' meditation of the law.' But then 
he adds ; Kal fAira ro ea^ariGat eoora^sru TOCJ 6 
K-JOICCK^V rriv avaffrdfft'AOV, rr\v jSatf/>./5a, rr,v vvarov 
" After they have kept the Sabbath, let every one that loves 
Christ, keep the day of the Lord ; the day of the memorial 
of his resurrection ; which is the queen and the supreme of 
all other days." And without further testimony we find it 
affirmed, in general, by Balsamo, nga ruv ay/uv varepuv 
i%t4ii)dn<tcH diohou <f^s8ov ra/c Kue/axa?j TO, <raara' " The Sab- 
bath day and the Lord's day were, almost in all things, made 
equal by the holy fathers;" and some of them called them, 
'brethren:' so Gregory Nyssen ; some, xaX^v T^V ffuvusida, 
ro\j ffaZZarov rris Kyg/a/c?jj, so Asterius ; ''an excellent 
combination or yoke of the Sabbath and the Lord's day :" 
and r^uioag loeruv, so the Canon of the Apostles, ' the feast-days,' 
which Zonaras 5 well explicates to the present sense, but the 
Constitutions of St. Clement 11 (which is indeed an ancient 
book) give the fullest account of it; To ca^arov /JLSVTOI xal rqv 
Ogra^srw, or/ rb ftsv fayuougyftlt sdriv VKOfJwq/Aa, q&e ava- 
" Let the Sabbath and the Lord's day be kept 
festival ; that, because it is the memorial of the creation, 
this, of the resurrection :" and, therefore, whereas it is in 
the commandment, ' six days shalt thou labour,' &c. he says, 
that servants are to labour but five days : and upon this 
account it was, in the Greek Church especially, and is to 
this day forbidden to fast upon the Sabbath and the 
Lord's day. 

51. The effect of which consideration is this ; that the 
Lord's day did not succeed in the place of the Sabbath ; but 
the Sabbath was wholly abrogated, and the Lord's day was 

K Lib. vii. c. 24. h Lib. viii. 



merely of ecclesiastical institution. It was not introduced 
by virtue of the fourth commandment; because they, for 
almost three hundred years together, kept that day which 
was in that commandment; but they did it also without any 
opinion of prime obligation, and therefore they did not sup- 
pose it moral. But there was together with the observation 
of the day a piece of natural religion which was conse- 
quently moral; that is, a separation of some time for the 
glorification of God and the commemoration of his benefits. 
Not that it can be reasonably thought, that the assignation 
of a definite time can be a moral duty, or that an indefinite 
time can be the matter of a commandment : and therefore I 
suppose it to be unreasonable to say, that although the 
seventh day is not moral, yet that one day is, or at least 
that some time be separate, is moral ; for that one day in 
seven should be separate can have no natural, essential, and 
congenite reason, any more than one in ten, or one in six; 
for as it does not naturally follow, that, because God ceased 
from the creation on the seventh day, therefore we must 
keep that holyday, so neither could we have known it 
without revelation ; and therefore what follows from hence 
must be by positive constitution. Now if it be said, ' that it 
is moral, that some time be set apart for God's service ;' I 
say it is true, that it is necessary, naturally necessary that 
it be so, but this cannot be the matter of a special command- 
ment; because it being naturally necessary that God should 
be solemnly worshipped, this must suppose a time to do it 
in, as a natural circumstance, and needs not a command- 
ment ; which is sufficiently and unavoidably included in the 
first commandment, in which we are bound to serve God 
with religion. The fourth commandment enjoined a definite 
time, but that was ceremonial and abrogated : but an in- 
definite time is not a duty of this commandment, but sup- 
posed in that which commands us to worship God. For we 
may as well worship God, and do no action, as worship him 
in no time. The definite time here named is taken away, 
and the indefinite time cannot be a distinct duty, but yet in 
imitation of the reasonableness and piety of that law, and in 
commemoration of a greater benefit than was there remem- 
bered, a day of more solemn religion was used by the Christian 
Church; for as on the Jewish Sabbath they remembered 


the creation and their redemption from Egypt, so on the 
Lord's day they commemorated the works of God, and their 
redemption from sin, hell, and the grave: but the first rea- 
son was to yield to the second ; as the light of a lesser star 
falls into the glories of the sun, and though it be there, yet 
it makes no show, because a bigger beauty fills up all the 
corners of the eyes and admiration : and now the Lord's day 
hath taken into itself all the religion, but not the rest of the 
Sabbath ; that is, it is a day of solemn worshipping God, and 
of remembering his blessings, but not of rest, save only as a 
vacancy from other things is necessary for our observation 
of this : because, as the Italians say, " lo non puo cantare 
e portare la croce, I cannot sing and carry the cross too ;" 
a man cannot at once attend to two things of contrary 

52. That we are free from the observation of the Sabbath, 
St. Paul expressly affirms;' adding this reason, " Feasts, 
new moons, and Sabbath days, and meats and drink, are 
but the shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ:" 
where, by the way, let it be observed, that, upon the occasion 
of this and some other like expressions, the Christians have 
supposed, that all the rites of Moses were types and figures 
of something in Christianity, and that some mystery of ours 
must correspond to some rite of theirs. This fancy makes 
some impertinences in the discourses of wise men, and 
amuses and entertains the understanding of many with little 
images of things, which were never intended, and hath too 
often a very great influence into doctrines : whereas here the 
word <sxik ruv /isXXoirwv, " the shadow of things to come," 
means, a shadow in respect of the things to come; that is, 
if these rituals be compared to the ra /^XXovra, * those things 
which were to come,' they are but very shadows, and no- 
things : ffKia, or ' shadow,' signifies not in relation, but in 
opposition, to ' corpus.' ' The shadow,' that is, a religion 
consisting but in rituals and exterior solemnities ; but 
Christianity is ' the body,' that is, that durable, permanent, 
true, and substantial religion, which is fit for all men, and 
to abide for all ages : and, therefore, Hesychius, by ' corpus 
Christi,' in this place, understands the word of ' doctrine ;' 

1 Coloss. ii. 16. 


that is, a religion which consists in wise notions, ly aX>j0=/a, 
' in truth/ not in external rituals that signified nothing of 
themselves, but something by institution. Others by * the 
body of Christ' here, understand ' the Christian Church ;' in 
which sense the word is used by St. Paul k to the Corinthians: 
and in this very place it means so, if the words be read, as 
some Greek copies do, that is, with conjunction and refer- 
ence to the next verse : Ti ds aupa. rou xg/<rrou wdits l^ag 
xarajSgafieviru, &c. " Let no man make a gain of you, who 
are the body of Christ." However, that St. Paul affirms the 
customs of the Pythagoreans in abstinence from flesh and 
wine, and of the Jews in their feasts and Sabbaths, to be 
no fit matters, in which men are to be judged, that is, for 
the not observing of which they are to be condemned, but 
to be shadows and umbrages, not substantial parts of religion, 
is evident by the antithesis, however it be understood ; but 
in order to other purposes, I observed here, that he does not 
mean they are types and figures ; for the Pythagorean vanities 
did never pretend to this, but they and the other two are but 
shadows, empty and unprofitable in respect of the religion 
which Christ brought into the world. They were ineffective 
and insignificative ; but only present entertainments of their 
obedience, and divertisements and fixings of their thoughts 
apt to wander to the Gentile customs ; but nothing of natural 

53. Now although the primitive Christians did also meet 
publicly upon the Jewish Sabbaths, yet that they did it not 
by virtue of the fourth commandment, appears because they 
affirmed it to be ceremonial, and no part of the moral law, as 
is to be seen in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, St. Cyprian, and 
others before quoted. 1 And in the Council of Laodicea, m 
the observation of the Jewish Sabbath, which, till that time, 
had continued amongst Christians, was expressly forbidden : 
" Non oportet Christianos Judaizare et in Sabbato vacare, 
sed operari eos in eadem die, Dominicam praeponendo eidera 
diei. Si hoc eis placet, vacent tanquam Christiani, quod si 
inventi fuerint Judaizare, anathema sint; Christians must 
not keep the rest of the Sabbath, but work upon that day, 
preferring the Lord's day before it. If they will rest on that 

k 1 Cor. xii. 27. ' Numb. 41. m Can. xxix. 


day, let them rest as Christians; but if they rest as Jews, let 
them be accursed:" that is, if they will keep the day holy, 
let them sanctify it as Christians should sanctify their day, 
that is, only with such a rest as ministers to the opportunities 
of religion, not so as to make the rest to be the religion of 
the day. 

54. The Jewish Sabbath being abrogated, the Christian 
liberty, like the sun after the dispersion of the clouds, ap- 
peared in its full splendour ; and then the division of days 
ceased, and one day was not more holy than another, as St. 
Paul n disputes in his Epistle to the Galatians, and from him 
St. Jerome; and when St. Paul reproved the Corinthians 
for going to law before the unbelievers, who kept their court- 
days upon the first day of the week, he would not have 
omitted to reprove them by so great and weighty a circum- 
stance as the profaning the Lord's day, in case it had been 
then a holy day, either of Divine or apostolical institution; 
for when, afterward, it grew into an ecclesiastical law, and 
either by law or custom was observed together with the 
Jewish Sabbath, Constantine p made a favourable edict, that 
the Christians should not be impleaded on those two festivals. 
Of which I only make use to this purpose, that among the 
Gentiles these were law-days; and, therefore, the Corinthians 
must needs have been profaners of that day by their law- 
suits, and therefore have been, upon that account, ob- 
noxious to the apostolical rod, if the day had then, in any 
sense of authority, been esteemed holy. 

55. But although there was no holiness in any day, yet they 
thought it fit to remember the great blessings of God, which 
were done upon certain days. An action cannot be separated 
from time; it must be done some day or other, and most 
properly upon the anniversary, or the monthly, or weekly 
minds; but yet this they did with so great indifference of 
observation, that it cannot look less than that there was a 
providence in it. For although all the Christian Church that 
kept the Sunday festival, did it, and professed to do it, in 
remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord, yet that the 
day of its memory was not more holy than any day, and was 
not of necessary observation, it appears by the Eastern 

* Gal. iv. 10. o i n hunc locum. P Apud Euseb. 


churches, and all the disciples of St. John, who kept the 
feast of the resurrection of our Lord, I mean the anniversary, 
the great, the prime feast, and that which was the measure of 
all the rest, not upon that day of the week on which Christ 
did rise, but on the day of the full moon, whenever it should 
happen. Now this must needs be a demonstration that the 
day of the resurrection was not holy by Divine or apostolical 
institution : the memory of the blessing was to be eternal ; 
and though the return